The Eve of Bramleys

We used to grow apples. Before we were all blackcurrants and vines, there were eaters, cookers and pollinators. Amongst the few rows of dark red Braeburns and sweet Golden Delicious we grew mostly Bramleys. If you don’t know your apples, Bramleys are the big green apples that have a sharp taste and are best in a pie, a crumble or an apple sauce. Today only one tree remains and its not even one of the farm ones.

Yesterday I found the first open blossom on that Bramley tree (it was planted on the day our dog Bella died – she loved those big, sour, green apples; always took just one bite out of each when she came across them). The simple pink flower has conincided with a book I had just finished reading, that mentioned apples quite a lot. The author had done an extensive research into the fruit and the trees in order to write her novel and it was the research that made me write this post.

IMG_1563Did you know that apples come originally from the mountains of Kazakhstan? And how about the fact that if you plant a pip, you very rarely get a sweet fruit even if the  pip came from the sweetest and juiciest apple? That’s why small twigs had to be taken from the original tree and grafted onto a rootstock. And here we come to the amazing situation where we have ONE old tree from which ALL trees in the UK originated. The Eve of Bramleys, as Tracy Chevalier calls it in her book ‘At the Edge of the Orchard’, is over 200 years old (unfortunately last year it was reported dying of an incurable fungal disease). It was planted by a young girl in a garden in Nottinghamshire.

While it’s sad, that the oldest Bramley is dying, it’s still mind boggling that our whole farm stock came from that one tree. And everybody else’s farm and garden Bramleys. Grafts of grafts…

So when I found that first bloom on my little dwarf of a tree, I thought, that it’s time to share that boggled mind with you.

Oh and while I am at it, I might as well educate you on a lovely habit we Czechs adhere to almost religiously. Every May Day lovers kiss under blossoming apple trees. It’s to keep the ladies beatiful, lovely and loving.

As the seasons don’t always coincide with the calendar, I have stopped worrying if the blossom in question is an apple, a pear, or even a lilac. Any blossom will do (however, not everyONE will do; ideally bring your own partner as people get alarmed by a stranger trying to drag them under a tree in order to kiss them…).

So this is your advanced warning. On the first of May you need to get out there, find a tree and kiss like you never kissed before!


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