When it comes to Wales’ fruit growing heritage, the story doesn’t end with our Apples.
Although the selection of named cultivars is currently on the small side, Welsh heritage Pears, Plums, Damsons and Cherries have begun to enter the commercial market. And there are some fantastic varieties there to choose from too.
Perhaps what is most exciting though is that not all of these varieties are necessarily old. Pioneering fruit-growers are attempting to breed cultivars specifically suited to our climate, with the first fruits of their labour finally beginning to show up.
But hey, let’s not bore you any longer with my inane fruit-flavoured ramblings. Onto the the juicy bits.
Snowdon Queen Pear (Brenhinas Yr Wyddfa) – Llanberis
A fantastic eating pear so well suited to the Welsh climate that it was originally found growing on Snowdon itself, just above Llanberis. Is known to produce heavy yields of excellent fruit, whether plonked at sea-level or a few hundred feet above it. Good disease resistance and partially self-fertile, the fruit carries a distinctive rosewater aroma. A terrific heritage Welsh eating pear.
Penryhn Castle Pear (Gellygen Castell Penrhyn) – Gwynedd
A bit of a mystery when it comes to exact origins, the Penryhn’s surviving trees are both now over 120 years old. Planted just outside the gardeners lodge at Penrhyn Castle, this heritage variety combines terrific taste and texture with strong disease resistance, making it an ideal addition to any pear-lovers back garden.
Berllanderi Green – Rhaglan
The only truly dual-purpose pear on our list, the Berllanderi Green’s juice has a great balance to its flavour, making it ideal as a single-variety perry. Discovered amongst a sea of old apple and pear trees on a farm once owned by the Duke of Beaufort, a Berllanderi Green also makes a more than decent eater, and seems well suited to the British climate. So if you can’t make your mind up between a perry or an eater for that prime garden location fear not, the Berllanderi Green has got your back.
Gwehelog Red – Rhaglan
A beautiful tree when in flower, smothered in snow-white petals with the dashes of dark-purple anthers dotted between, the Gwehelog Red would earn its spot in the garden on looks alone in my book. As a perry tree, it is among the best of the small lineup of heritage Welsh cultivars currently making their way towards commercial sale. Producing a nicely balanced, aromatic juice with both low tannin and acidity, Gwehelog Red certainly has potential as a single variety perry.
Welsh Gin – South Wales
Likely the best heritage Welsh pear we currently know of, Welsh Gin produced ample yields of beautiful blushed fruit. The resulting juice has a sweet / bitter-sweet profile, with both low tannin and acidity present. A variety with lots of potential.
Denbigh Plum (Erinen Dinbych)
A truly fantastic plum with a wealth of history behind it, the Denbigh Plum is an essential addition to the back garden of anybody interested in heritage Welsh fruit. Believed to date back to around 1785, this very special tree is one of only 26 products in the Uk to be awarded the ‘Protected Designation of Origin’ status, underpinning its importance to Denbigh’s cultural history.
It produces ample crops of delicious fruit, multi-purpose in their suitability as either dessert or culinary plums. The flavour is very rich indeed, surpassing even Victoria plums according to some! The trees themselves have also proven to be remarkably disease free, which is a real relief given they’re the last remaining heritage Welsh plums to survive. A real slice of Welsh fruit growing history, get one, get two, get ten – they’re well worth it.
Abergwyngregyn Damson (Erinen Ddu Abergwyngregyn)
One hollow, wood-wormed, 200-plus-year old tree was found along the edge of the Menai Straits, remarkably disease-free and still producing almost entirely blemish-free fruits. This magnificent old tree turned out to be among the only heritage Welsh Damson trees left, and has since been given the – as good as indecipherable to non-welsh speakers – name ‘Abergwyngregyn Damson’. Try and say that five times in a row ey.
Luckily it was saved, and is now available commercially, giving us lucky lay-men the chance to grow heritage Welsh damsons all for ourselves. What a time to be alive. The fruit is delicious, whether eaten straight from the tree or used for culinary purposes, and makes a fantastic jam to boot. A wonderful choice not only for the unique slice of Welsh history, but the buckets of fruit which come along with it.
Cariad Cherry (Caernarfon)
Unique to our list, the Cariad Cherry is actually a new variety, bred specifically by ‘Ian Sturrock & Sons’ to crop well in our often unpredictable climate. Having been tested along the banks of the Menai Straits for ten years, the Cariad Cherry has proven to be up to the task set it, showing good disease resistance along with reliable crops of sweet, heart-shaped cherries. It’s terrific to see growers breeding specifically for our climate. With continued work in this direction, who knows what wonderful varieties we’ll have to choose from in years to come! Either way, the Cariad Cherry is a great choice if reliable crops in unreliable weather is high up your list. Give it a shot.
And that’s about that. I hope you’ve found this little run-down useful. All of the varieties mentioned are available at Ian Sturrock & Sons, if you’re interested in making a place in your garden for any of the cracking choices above.
And if you happened to find this post interesting, please feel free to check out a similar look at some heritage Welsh apple cultivars here. Also be sure to sign up to our monthly newsletter below to be kept in the look of all things EcoGeeks.
Thanks very much, and Happy Planting!