Family favourite, Apple Day, returns to the Garden this autumn on Sunday 27 October, for the first time in five years. At the core (pun fully intended!) we will be again scouring the region to bring together a diverse collection of apples to taste and try before you buy, including some seldom sold and heritage varieties.
The maincrop apples are expected to produce a good, though late harvest – a consequence of the miserable May that delayed flowering. Tim Elbourn of Cam Valley Orchards picks out the Cox varieties in particular as all fruiting really well, and is expecting a good haul of Princess and Hereford Russets, Ashmead’s Kernel, Winter Gem and Adams Pearmain. However the coldest spring for fifty years did affect blossom and fruit set at just the wrong time for some of the heritage varieties, resulting in scarce D’Arcy Spice or Pitmaston Pineapple. Nevertheless, we are confident of a wide range from russets, cookers and crisp Cox to dessert apples for storing.
The Apple Edibles tent, even bigger than before, will see familiar favourites from Cromwell Cider, Watergull Orchards and the delectable cakes of the WI, but we also welcome some new Apple Day converts, including Tom’s Cakes, the Cambridge Cheese Company and the Cambridge Cookery School, who will be extolling the virtues of using apples in savoury cooking.
Experts from the East of England Apples and Orchards Project (EEAOP) will also be on hand offering a pruning and care advice service, including a selection of heritage rootstocks available to order for autumn planting and a display of Cambridgeshire apple varieties. EEAOP seeks to remind us that the county was once a major grower of apples and other fruit, but only 20% of orchards documented in 1950 survive today, and orchard acreage is still declining due to development, neglect or conversion to arable land. Please do bring along your apples from home for identification by the team – you can find out what’s growing in your garden while our apple experts are fervently hoping that citizen science in action will bring a lost heritage variety to light. And speaking of science, keep an eye out for Sir Isaac Newton, near his eponymous apple tree on Brookside Lawn, a scion of the original Woolsthorpe Manor apple tree, which is said to have inspired Newton’s theory of gravity….
Apples have inspired not only scientists but storytellers since before the Garden of Eden, and feature particularly richly in classical mythology - the judgment of Paris resulted in him awarding the golden apple to Aphrodite, who granted him Helen of Troy in return, the most beautiful woman in the world, thereby sparking the Trojan Wars. We'll be looking at some of these stories at our family apple station. But perhaps the most remarkable story still is the slow journey of the orchard apple from its wild abode in the Tien Shan mountains of Central Asia eastwards to China and westwards through Turkey to Europe, diversifying over the centuries into the 7,500 cultivars grown today. So bring along the family to discover just a fraction of them at Apple Day this October.
Entry to the Botanic Garden on Apple Day requires the purchase of an Apple Day ticket, priced £3, plus normal Garden admission. Children 16 and under, free.
From 21 September, you will be able to buy Apple Day tickets in advance from the Brookside Gate and Station Road ticket offices during normal Garden opening hours. This will allow 'fast track' entry on Apple Day.