The original Bramley tree

Given how popular apples are in Europe and the USA, it’s surprising to discover they actually originated in Khazakstan, and were brought south and west with traders through Persia, Greece and to the Roman Empire. It was the Romans who introduced apples to Britain, and British settlers who brought them to the USA.

When an apple seed is planted, usually the fruit from the resulting tree will be sour. The only way to guarantee replicating a sweet flavor is to take a branch from a sweet tree and splice it onto the root stock of another, in a process called grafting. So each apple variety stems from one specific tree. For example, the most common cooking apple in Britain is the Bramley. The original Bramley tree still exists, in a cottage garden in Nottinghamshire. All trees now producing Bramleys come from grafts from that tree, or grafts of grafts. That Nottingham tree is the Eve of the Bramleys.

These days apples have been taken over by commercial concerns, with an emphasis on even appearance, a crunchy texture and long storage time. Often only 3-4 varieties are available in grocery stores.

Apples were much more interesting in the 19th century, when hundreds of varieties were grown, with varying textures and tastes, and undertones of interesting flavors – such as the Pitmaston Pineapple with its pineapple finish.