Taste test: Scottish-grown apples
Finding the very best potato of the sky
October is the time for apples in Scotland – for this month at least you can stop buying the few familiar types of imported apple and choose from the hundreds of native varieties growing in orchards, parks and back gardens near you. The variety called Charles Ross is a popular one in Scotland: a good eater with firm, creamy white flesh and an aromatic, orangey flavour. Great for juicing too.
Hundreds of apple trees are being planted by schools and community groups in Scotland as part of the Commonwealth Orchard project, which is aiming to create a positive, healthy grassroots legacy for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Discovery is one of the more common varieties used for these new plantings: it’s a great apple straight off the tree with lovely marbled pink, crisp flesh and a good balanced taste: not too sweet, not too tart.
The vast majority of apples are bought in supermarkets, where we’re used to clearly distinguished types and perfect good looks. Not all apples plucked from local trees look so immaculate, but a few blemishes are unlikely to affect taste, or how well an apple cooks or juices. The Emneth Early, with its distinctive ridges running down the side, is generally treated as a cooking apple. To eat it’s crisp and clean but very sharp.
An apple that grows well in Scottish conditions. It will seem a tad sour compared to the warm-climate varieties we’re used to, but it’s well balanced with a fresh taste. A good all-rounder this one: it can be an eater, or a cooker, and is particularly good for juice – apple gathering projects such as Abundance, based in south Edinburgh, bring along a press to events to make fresh juice (www.abundanceedinburgh.com).
Oor Wullie was always being chased down the street by PC Murdoch for stealing apples. These days local councils have to organise school trips to show kids where apples grow. Katy is the kind of apple you’d shin a wall to nab: not only are the trees often full of pretty red apples, but the fruit is delicately fragrant with a subtle flavour. Smaller in size and not a keeper – perfect for eating straight off the tree.
The russet-skinned Laxton’s Fortune has a creamy flesh and is aromatic, sweet and reminiscent of Cox’s Pippins, which are sometimes the only British apple to find a place on supermarket shelves. People are sometimes reluctant to eat local apples because they don’t know the variety – ultimately, however, it’s not about what they’re called but how they taste. If they’re not an eater, they’re likely a cooker, and either way will probably make decent juice.
With thanks to John Hancox of The Children’s Orchard (www.childrensorchard.co.uk) for samples and identification