We often get asked to recommend 'local' fruit varieties but this simple request for information isn't necessarily as simple as it first sounds.
The term 'local can really mean two things - it can be varieties of fruit that were discovered or bred locally, or alternatively it could just be that a variety has been discovered or bred elsewhere but has been found to grow well within a certain area and becomes part of that local fruit growing tradition.
There are thousands of orchard fruit varities that can grown in the UK. Listed below are an introductory selection of orchard fruit that we've encountered in our local orcharding work.
This is a large dual purpose (culinary/dessert) apple variety with a local Colwall provenance. It originated from Geoffrey Knight who grew and sold fruit in Colwall in the mid 20th century, and was then introduced and marketed by F P Matthews Nursery in Tenbury Wells in the 1980s. Picking time is October and it stores until December. Its main attribute is exceptionally beautiful pink blossom so it's a good choice as an ornamental tree that will yield useful apples.
A slight misnomer here since the origins of this apple are from Tenbury Wells in Worcestershire in the 1940s, and not Colwall in Herefordshire. Nevertheless, this dessert apple variety is much grown locally. The 'quoining' name is a reference to the angular shape of the apples which have distinctive ridges. This variety is a strong grower and crops readily. Apart from having our village name we like it since the fruit juices exceptionally well giving sweetness to our apple juice blends that might otherwise be too sharp. Picking time is late September to early October and fruit store until November.
This is one of two perry pear varieties with Colwall provenance. This variety is thought to have originated from Moorcroft Farm in Colwall where the 19th century fruit experts, Hogg and Bull, recorded 'many trees of a considerable age' in 1884. It is said to make a fragrant perry. We love it partly due to its other common name - the wonderfully descriptive 'Stinking Bishop'. The name apparently comes from a colourful and riotous character - Percy Bishop - who lived at Moorcroft Farm in the 1800s.
This is not a typo! You can grow apricots in the Midlands and this reliably hardy variety originates from the side of the Malvern Hills, the backdrop to Colwall village. It can be grown as a free-standing tree or fan trained against a wall. It will do best in well-drained soil, in a sunny, frost-free position.
The fruit have an intense flavour with a sweet and juicy flesh.
Definitely something unusual to try growing and to impress your friends and family with!
Colwall has a rich heritage of commercial fruit growing during the 19th and 20th centuries. This perry pear variety originates from Colwall from a property called 'Stony Way' (or something similar!). That house is close to 'The Winnings' the house built by the engineer Stephen Ballard 1st who was responsible for bringing the railway to Colwall in the 1860s thus helping kick starting the fruit growing enterprises. As a 'critically rare' variety we are delighted to have just bought two recently grafted trees from Lodge Farm Nursery and these have been used to gap up a local traditional orchard. Sadly there are no readily available photos of this variety so instead our image here shows the beauty of a typical perry pear tree - upright in habit and swathed with attractive blossom.
Another local perry pear variety this one originating from a field called 'Bare Lands' in the nearby village of Bosbury in Herefordshire. It's a variety of some considerable age and was well-known before 1674 and grown extensively. Traditionally it was used for both perry, and for medicinal purposes for the treatment of kidney disorders. The fruit are quite astringent so ideally need to be blended with other perry pear varieties. They are also exceptionally hard - so much so that it was said to be so hard and coarse that even a pig would not eat it!
Not all of our favourite apples are old varieties. Some like the Herefordshire Russet are comparatively new introductions and despite its name it was bred in Kent in 2002. This is a cross between a 'Cox's Orange Pippin' and a 'Golden Delicious' and this has resulted in a very delicious, disease resistant dessert apple that's easy to grow. We find that this apple tree does very well in our locality. We also find that this apple juices well. Picking time is late October, and with care it can be stored until January.
If you are looking for a fruit tree whose provenance spans the centuries this variety of cooking pear fits the bill with a history perhaps going back to Roman times. This pear has strong local associations and features on Worcester City's coat of arms and the Worcestershire County Council crest. There are examples of this tree locally that are of considerable size and beauty. The fruit should be picked in late October, and then you need to be patient, storing the fruit until early the following year by which time they will have matured and softened enough for cooking.
Newland is an area close to Malvern and this culinary variety apparently originated from a pip found growing in a discarded pile of pomace at Newland Court in around 1800. A good apple variety will have at least one outstanding quality and the main merit of this apple is that it stores exceptionally well, even if bruised. It also sweetens during storage so can subsequently be eaten fresh. In an unashamedly great piece of advertising the tenant farmer at Newland Court described it as "the best family apple known". It has however, fallen from favour, so we are trying to re-introduce this variety locally to try it out. Picking time is October and the fruit will store until May.
The local city of Worcester once boasted several significant fruit tree nurseries and this dessert pear variety was developed by John Williams of Pitmaston, Worcester in 1841. This was once an important commercial variety much used for canning and bottling. The fruit are exceptionally large, with a sweet lemony flesh and a buttery texture. This is a triploid variety so is a vigorous grower. The fruit should be picked in late September and will store until October.
This is an exceptionally well-known variety and is still an important commercial apple. It originated in the area of Swan Pool, Worcester and was subsequently adopted by Messers Smith of Worcester in 1874. It has the major advantage of being one of the earliest dessert apples of the season. Patience is a virtue and to enjoy this apple at it's best you should let it ripen on the tree to a bright red colour at which stage it should be eaten straight away to benefit from the fresh taste, with a hint of strawberry. Picking time is early September but this apple doesn't store that well so if you have a surplus of fruit this is also good for juicing.
'Edward VII' is an excellent late culinary variety that was introduced by Rowe's Nursery of Worcester in 1908. It flowers late in the season so is a good candidate to grow in areas subject to frost. This is not necessarily the most prolific of varieties and can be slow to crop in early years but the trees are of an attractive, upright habit and are said to be resistant to the fungal disease apple scab. The fruit have an acid taste with a nice flavour and take a while to cook down to a good puree. Picking time is mid October, and this is an excellent long-storing variety that will keep until April.
A simply beautiful apple and this webmaster was licking his lips as he copied this appetising image onto the website. It must be lunchtime...! This variety is a genetic variation, a 'sport', of a German apple 'Alkmene' and is said to have been found a few miles from Colwall in the 1980s. It has the advantage of being self-fertile and produces delicious dessert fruit that can also be used for juicing. As a tree it is frost hardy, disease resistant, compact, reliable and a good cropper. This would be a very good starter variety of apple for your garden but it is also grown commercially. Picking time is mid September and it stores until October.
We think that damsons are vastly under-rated as an orchard tree and should be grown more widely. Originating from Shropshire, the neighbouring county to Herefordshire, we count this as our 'local' variety. Damsons are tough fruit trees with attractive flowers. 'Shropshire Prune' makes a compact tree that crops well. The attractive fruit fruit can be cooked for jams or puddings and, very much on-trend currently, can be used to flavour gin. This variety was awarded the Award of Garden Merit (A.G.M.) by the Royal Horticultural Society in 1998 so comes highly recommended by others, as well as us.
This is certainly not a pear of local provenance - having been bred by the Rivers Nursery in Hertfordshire.
We are including it here since it's one of the most reliable dessert pears for growing in the UK so would probably be top of our list for you to try growing. The fruits are sweet and juicy with a good pear flavour.
An attractive tree with an entertaining name. The 'Drooper' refers to its weeping habit and the form of this tree makes it very aesthetically useful for a garden or orchard setting.
Once grown widespread commercially, this old-fashioned West Midlands variety is a strong growing tree that crops heavily and reliably. The yellow and green oval plums can be eaten fresh or used for cooking. The trees are self-fertile, and the fruit is usually ready for picking in mid-August.
'Dymock Red' is a cider apple variety originating from Dymock in Gloucestershire. This bittersweet cider variety dates back to the 17th century and was previously grown extensively in the area around our neighbouring market town of Ledbury. Whilst some cider apples are best blended with others to make a palatable drink this is a vintage variety that makes 'well balanced cider of high quality' on its own.
We have a 'Limelight' apple tree planted in the children's orchard at Colwall Village Garden. This modern, mid-season dessert apple is a firm favourite with children due to its crisp, refreshing flesh rich in flavour. For the gardener it's a good choice since it's disease resistant and a heavy cropper. Picking time is mid-September and apples store until November.
Rosie Sanders in the respected publication 'The Apple Book' describes it simply as "A lovely apple". Job done.
When considering the choice of what fruit trees to grow in your orchard or garden it's good to plan for some succession of crops throughout the season. This variety is an early culinary apple that we are including here to give you apples for cooking in mid August when the fruit are picked, and which will store until October. The fruit are flattish and angular and cook down to a puree with a honeyed flavour. Your webmaster has this apple growing in his garden as a cordon against a fence and it comes with our personal recommendation.
This is a plum variety with so many good qualities that it's recommended by us even though its origins are from Thomas Rivers nursery in Hertfordshire, and not Herefordshire! The name celebrates the visit of the Czar of Russia to England in 1874. This is a prolific culinary plum that can be used fresh when ripe. The trees are self-fertile, frost- resistant and upright in habit. Picking time is early August.
This is a re-nouned cider apple variety from one of the other important cider growing areas of the country - Somerset. 'Kingston Black' has very attractive deep red skin which is flecked with almost black flecks or striping. This is a bittersharp, vintage cider apple that was once widely planted in the West Country and is famed for producing a full bodied cider with a distinctive flavour.
The late culinary apple 'Annie Elizabeth' was grown locally on a commercial basis and originated from Leicester. The fruit are fairly acid with good flavour. This is an exceptionally good culinary apple for storing and fruit picked in mid October can be stored for use between December and June. If grown with a good early season culinary apple variety that would ensure that fruit was available to use almost throughout the whole year.
'Cambridge is a medium sized green fruit with excellent gage flavour. As well as being used fresh the fruit can also be used to make jam. This is one of the more reliable gages and will make a hardy, vigorous tree with a rounded crown and should crop well. The trees are partially self-fertile and the fruit should be picked in mid August.
This high quality late dessert apple is always very well up our 'recommended list'. It's a variety of some considerable age originating from Gloucestershire in the 1700s. The trees are moderately vigorous, disease resistant, upright spreading and produce fruiting spurs readily. Fruiting can however be a little erratic. Fruit should be picked in mid October and should be stored ready for use between December and February. Apples are sweet yet a little acid, juicy and refreshing, and are very aromatic. A treat!