It is rather sad that with over 2,000 varieties of apple known in the UK, just 9 dominate in commercial orchards.
We use mainly old Devon varieties – conserving apples that have all but disappeared – and are certainly not found in any supermarket. In total, we grow about 30 different types.
Our Devon varieties (with place and year of origin, if known) include:
- Cornish Pine (Exminster, sometime before 1920) – soft, tender flesh with a pineapple flavour.
- Farmer’s Glory – upright ‘bottle-brush’ foliage. Flesh sharp but becoming sweeter with time.
- Kirton Fair (Crediton) – a very early, knobbly apple traditionally brought to market in August at the Feast of St Lawrence.
- Lucombe’s Pine (Exeter, 1800) – good flavoured juicing variety with golden, russet flecked fruits.
- Oaken Pin (Exe valley, before 1876) – unusual oval fruits which have an intense sweet and aromatic flavour.
- Payhembury (you guessed it, Payhembury!) – sharp cooking or cider apple.
- Peter Lock (Buckfastleigh, early C19) – sweet and aromatic greenish/yellow fruits.
- Plympton Pippin (Tamar valley) – very large, flattish green apples with a sub-acid flavour.
- Ponsford (C19) – soft, creamy, and juicy flesh.
- Sherry Surprise (Totnes) – large, irregular shaped apples.
- Slack Ma Girdle (Devon) – old sweet cider variety. Greenish yellow skin with crimson streaks.
- Sweet Cleave (Barnstaple area, before 1831) – greenish-yellow apple, flushed dull red.
- Sweet Coppin (C18) – a sweet, vintage quality cider apple.
- Tidecombe Seedling (Arlington, 1978) – a recent, good flavoured, sweet variety.
- Tom Putt (C18) – good for sharp juice or for cider. Also claimed by Dorset and Somerset.
- Upton Pyne (Topsham, 1910) – crisp, juicy, aromatic flesh.
- Woolbrook Pippin (Sidmouth, 1903) – aromatic, juicy and sharp.
Varieties from other parts of the South-West include:
- Beauty of Bath (Somerset, C19) – Sweet, juicy early variety that does not keep.
- Cornish Gilliflower (Truro, Cornwall, 1813) – aromatic, green and red flushed skin.
- Devon Crimson Queen (St Dominic, Cornwall) – dark red dessert apple. Crisp, sweet and juicy, with a tang.
- Egremont Russet (Merriot, Somerset 1872) – distinct sweet and nutty flavour.
- Kingston Black (Taunton, Somerset C19) – famous vintage cider apple.
- Pig’s Nose (Cornwall) – red-flushed conical apples with a sweet-acid flavour.
- Taunton Cross (Bristol / Somerset, 1919) – soft flesh with a vinous flavour.
We also grow a few varieties from other parts of England, notably Lord Derby (Cheshire, 1862) and Lord Lambourne (Bedford, 1907). Oh, and some huge North Devon mazzard cherry trees for good measure.
We have replaced the odd tree here and there over the years: some blew over during the wet and windy summer of 2012, others have succumbed to canker (a fungal disease), and one or two have just given up the ghost for no apparent reason at all. We planted another 150 trees in early 2016, using scions from our most successful varieties: Cornish Pine, Tiddecombe Seedling, Tom Putt and Lucombe’s Pine. The orchard now extends right up to the door of the processing shed.