Scroll Down for Lists
One of the aspects of fruit tree cultivation which has always fascinated me is the sheer diversity on show. With every region across the globe having at least a handful of unique varieties to which they and only they can lay claim to developing, it is truly amazing just how much is out there to discover if you’re willing to do a little digging.
Here in Wales, we tend to be a little laid back when it comes to keeping track of these things. As a result, our storied history of fruit growing, and the no doubt countless unique varieties of Apple, Pear, Plum and who-knows-what-else-trees which make up that history was slowly forgotten over the years.
However! Thanks to the dedicated efforts of a select few individuals, this gradual descent into the mist has been reversed, with numerous old varieties now identified, catalogued and propagated, preserving what is left of this rich history for generations to come. If our fruit growing past was an old house, these wonderful folks have since cracked open the windows, opened the curtains and begun slapping the magnolia left right and centre.
Things are at last looking up.
But it’s not only old varieties which are being protected from the grasping claws of forgotten history, new varieties are now also being developed, tailored specifically through careful breeding to cope with our often, shall we say ‘Unique’ climate.
So to celebrate this, we thought we’d take a look at a few of our favourite varieties, looking not only to understand a little of where they came from, but the role which they may have to play in years to come.
Bardsey Island Apple (Afal Ynys Enlli) – Bardsey Island
Sweet, very juicy pink fruits with a distinctive lemon aroma, the Bardsey Island apple is a truly unique Welsh heritage apple. Discovered by chance, the last surviving tree within the remnants of an old monastic orchard turned out to produce this wonderful eater, with both tree and fruit still remaining disease free even at its grand old age. A true gem of Welsh fruit growing history.
Cox Cymraeg – Bangor
A cox-like apple first found in the back garden of Bangors first motorised milk-lady. Despite the parent tree eventually being buried by an incoming A-road (what a travesty), the Cox Cymraeg thankfully survived through a cloned tree in a neighbouring garden. Its taste and texture is very similar to that of the English Cox’s Orange Pippin, however it is said to be more disease resistant in the Welsh climate.
Pig Aderyn – St Dogmaels
Another remnant of a monastic orchard (and likely, part-time cidery), Pig Aderyn is a cracking all purpose apple, suited to cider making, cooking and eating – depending on the time of year. We can attest to the quality of the cider that comes from it as a single-variety press (it’s very, very good!) having grown a handful at our small orchard here in sunny South Wales. A truly stellar addition to Welsh heritage apple history, I think we all owe the monks a diolch yn fawr for this one.
Baker’s Delicious (Dantaith Pobydd) – South Wales
A beautiful dessert apple who’s true history is still somewhat of a mystery, Bakers Delicious is one of our all time favourite Welsh heritage apples. It was discovered in 1932 by an English baker (hence the name), and was wrongly assumed to be of English origin for years to come. Its original Welsh name has unfortunately since been lost. A relatively low-maintenance tree which shows good disease resistance, the fruit is picked very early, usually ripening in September. Its fruit strikes a wonderful balance between sweetness & acidity, while retaining a very firm, juicy bite. A great heritage addition to the back garden.
Diamond Apple (Afal Deimwnt) – Barmouth
A true piece of horticultural history, the Diamond apple traces its origins back to the shipwreck which shares its name. Sunk off Cardigan Bay in 1825, the Diamond was en-route from New York to Liverpool, carrying around thirty passengers and a mixed hold of goods, included within were boxes of apples. Once underwater many of these apples washed ashore, from which seedlings were planted in a nearby orchard and eventually led to the ‘Diamond Apple’. How’s that for a slice of history to pop at the end of the garden! The apple itself has a pleasantly balanced vinous flavour, refreshing and quite juicy.
Morgan Sweet (Morgan Felys) – South Wales
A popular apple in the Somerset area to this day, Morgan Sweet adds a further layer to Welsh heritage apple history, along with being a great dual-purpose addition to any back garden orchard. Despite the name, Morgan Sweet is a sharp, tangy apple, with a very juicy texture to it. It is said that the South Wales miners enjoyed it particularly due to how refreshing this combination of sweet and tart was after a day down the pits. I personally enjoy them as eaters in moderation, however I think they’re best suited to cider-making, where they make a great addition to any first-early vintage.
Afal Anghidi – Tintern Abbey
Found outside the ruins of an old pub, the Afal Anghidi’s cider would have been enjoyed by the passing drovers and local ironworkers alike. The Anghidi is a versatile apple, having a palatable taste when eaten fresh and the ability to hold its shape well when cooked. Its primary use however is as a cider apple, a use which stretches back over a hundred years now, with many a satisfied customer along the way. A true slice of Welsh heritage apple history.
Perthyre – Monmouth
A small yellow apple which makes a great, bitter-sweet single-variety cider. Originally from the Monmouthshire area, dating back to pre-1920. Along with its well known cider-making credentials, the Perthyre doubles up as a solid cooker, making it a great dual-purpose addition to any self respecting, cider-loving, apple-tart-baking back garden.
Cadwaladr – Brecon
Another excellent bitter-sweet single-variety cider, the Cadwaladr is still widely grown all over the Brecon area. The tree is very well suited to the Welsh climate, showing (in our experience) very good disease along with a generally healthy growth habit. A must have Welsh heritage apple for anyone interested in unique, home-grown cider. One of our all-time favourites.
Ffredric – Monmouth
Perhaps the best has been saved for last, the Ffredric is a power-house in the world of heritage Welsh cider apples. Tracing its roots back to the Forest of Dean in the 1800’s, Ffredric makes a fantastic single variety cider (up there with the best single-varieties in my opinion), is relatively disease free and can also hold its own as a cooking apple. A rare cultivar to see these days, for the cider lovers out there – Give Ffredric a shot, you won’t be disappointed.
Gooses Arse (Tin Yr Gwydd) – Dyfed
A heavy yielding variety, the large green apples produced by Gooses Arse can be picked as early as August and last very well, retaining taste and texture easily into October. Generally disease-free and vigorous in its growth habit, Gooses Arse makes a great choice as a stand-alone cooker addition to the back garden or small orchard.
Pigeon’s Beak (Pig Y Glomen)
A very old variety whose specific origins are unknown, Pigeon’s Beak produces good yields of very tasty cooking apples, ripening around mid-season. Probably the best tasting heritage Welsh cooking apple of our list, making it a must-have for any lovers of home-grown apple crumble out there.
Anglesey Pigs Snout (Trwyn Mochyn) – Anglesey
Heavy yields of dual-purpose fruit, there’s a lot to love about this heritage Welsh apple. Dating as far back as the 1600’s, the Anglesey Pigs Snout will keep for months, gradually mellowing out into a very nice eating apple. Incredibly disease resistant, this cooking apple is an ideal choice for reliable crops in the Welsh climate.
Seek No Further (Gwell Na Mil) – Monmouth
Dating back to at least the 1700’s, Seek No Further’s red/gold russeted fruit makes for truly fantastic eating, cooks well and makes a great single variety cider. Its name refers to English speakers, while the original Welsh name translates as ‘Better than a thousand’. Grow a few and you’ll see what they meant, this apple is truly special not only for its utility but for its fabulous flavour. A true all-star of the heritage Welsh apple family.
Wern – Pembrokeshire
An excellent dual-purpose apple tracing its origins to 1800’s Pembrokeshire, the Wern is a great tasting, reliable cropper in the Welsh climate. Its fruit stores well, mellowing over the weeks into a very rich eating apple. A very good choice if looking for a reliable cropping, dual-purpose apple for the back garden.
So there we have it, a quick glance into the wonderful world of the heritage Welsh apple. Most of the cultivars named are available for sale at Ian Sturrock & Sons if you’re so interested.
This list is but the tip of the iceburg when it comes to the huge variety of home grown cultivars our drizzly little country has to offer, and I’ll be sure to add further posts on some more unusual varieties in future.
If you happened to find this post interesting, please feel free to check out a similar look at some heritage Welsh Pear, Plum & Cherry cultivars here. Also be sure to sign up to our monthly newsletter below to be kept in the look of all things EcoGeeks.
Anyhoo, I hope this has been of use! I’d love to hear from any of you out there thinking of planting some heritage Welsh cultivars, and would be happy to help in anyway I can.