Horticulturalist Chris Beardshaw uncovers the British contribution to the history of our most iconic fruit. He reveals the ‘golden age’, when the passion and dedication of Victorian gardeners gave us more varieties than anywhere else in the world.
Chris also finds out how the remarkable ingenuity of a small group of 20th century British scientists helped create the modern mass-market apple. Britain has more varieties of apple than anywhere else in the world. At the National Fruit Collection, Joan Morgan explains why.
Ian Sturrock cultivates rare Welsh fruit trees and has discovered an extraordinary apple growing, against all the odds, on Bardsey Island. Chris visits the 200 year old Bramley tree, still growing strong in a garden in Nottinghamshire.
An apple is a sweet, edible fruit produced by an apple tree (Malus pumila). Apple trees are cultivated worldwide, and are the most widely grown species in the genus Malus. The tree originated in Central Asia, where its wild ancestor, Malus sieversii, is still found today. Apples have been grown for thousands of years in Asia and Europe, and were brought to North America by European colonists. Apples have religious and mythological significance in many cultures, including Norse, Greek and European Christian traditions.
Apple trees are large if grown from seed. Generally apple cultivars are propagated by grafting onto rootstocks, which control the size of the resulting tree. There are more than 7,500 known cultivars of apples, resulting in a range of desired characteristics. Different cultivars are bred for various tastes and uses, including cooking, eating raw and cider production. Trees and fruit are prone to a number of fungal, bacterial and pest problems, which can be controlled by a number of organic and non-organic means. In 2010, the fruit’s genome was sequenced as part of research on disease control and selective breeding in apple production.