Thursday, 27 April 2017

The Bramley Apple Story

I never imagined that I would return home from our short road trip and write a tale about the humble Bramley apple, but so often you come across the unexpected when you are out and about exploring?
Over 200 years ago in 1809, Mary Ann Brailsford, a young girl living in the small town of Southwell, Nottinghamshire, grew the first ever Bramley apple tree from a pip she had planted in the family's garden. She sowed several pips from apples already growing in the garden and one of them years later produced the Bramley apple we know and love today.   
Southwell is a fine honey coloured small stone town, and apart from being home to the first Bramley apple tree, it is also home to what is said to be the best kept secret amongst England's 42 cathedrals - Southwell Minster. It is a Romanesque gem - this photo was taken over six years ago with my first ever digital camera
In 1856, Henry Merryweather, a 17 year old youth came across a gardener in Southwell carrying some of the apples, and enquired as to where they had been grown. By this time, the garden containing the apple tree belonged to a butcher called Matthew Bramley.
Mr Bramley agreed that Mr Merryweather could take cuttings from the tree and grow them at his family's plant nursery, provided that they were given the name Bramley's Seedling. In truth, perhaps, the name should really have been Mary Ann's Seedling! but by this time the little girl was long gone.
Today there are now more than 300 Bramley apple growers in England.
It is universally acknowledged that the Bramley cooking apple is the perfect apple for pies etc - in my own humble opinion the Bramley reigns supreme

On our first night away we stayed at a very contemporary hotel situated within Nottingham University's campus, strangely called 'The Orchard' with a restaurant called


Being of a curious nature I was interested to discover more.
In 1991 the original Bramley's Seedling apple tree in the Southwell garden was under attack on two fronts - old age and honey fungus.
Biologists from the University of Nottingham saved the tree from the fungus and it still continues fruiting to this day. But they also ensured the future of the Bramley apple, by using modern biotechnology methods to clone the original tree, thereby preserving it's unique fruit.
Now, 12 of the cloned trees are thriving and fruiting in the Millennium Garden at Nottingham University Park behind the hotel. This guarantees that future generations of gardeners will have access to the original form of the "Bramley's seedling", even after the ancient tree inevitably stops fruiting. 
The Orchard Hotel thus pays homage to the Bramley Apple by naming it's restaurant 'Bramleys Brasserie', which happens to serve delicious food too!!!

This week the Bramley apple blossom was picture perfect in the university orchard

41 comments:

  1. Although I vaguely knew the story of the Bramley Apple, and had see the original tree on a TV prog, it was lovely to read about it here! And more stunning photos!
    I love Bramleys, you can't beat them for cooking pies and crumbles with!
    Margaret P

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    1. I agree Margaret - once you have tasted a Bramley in an apple pie etc nothing else comes close.

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  2. What an interesting and attractive post, Rosemary. I had never heard of the Bramley Apple, but they look to be the same as the green apples we cook with in Australia. It is good to hear that the University is working to preserve the original fruit stock. There was a beautiful pumpkin named after my home town which was once readily available, but now rare indeed, replaced by a watery Asian variety which is available all over Australia. Apple blossom is so beautiful, something I rarely see!

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    1. Unfortunately I did not get my image quite right Patricia - they are very large apples and look as if they have been pushed down in the middle giving them a more elongated shape.

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  3. Hello Rosemary, Britain must be apple heaven. The last time I was in England, I was able to try Bramleys at Harrods food department--they had dozens of traditional apple varieties, and I went there every day for lunch--apples, cheese and French bread.

    I too like to visit orchards when they are in blossom, not just at picking time. I am glad they were able to save the original Bramley's.
    --Jim

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    1. It is an interesting little tale Jim - just a stroke of luck that the Bramley apple tree ever happened

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  4. Isn't that always the way -- some man takes credit and gets all the glory and naming rights for what a woman did.

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    1. Ah yes! they should really be known as Mary Ann.

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  5. How interesting, I'd heard of Bramley apples, but knew nothing about them. I'm assuming they're strictly an English apple. The best apple for cooking here in the States is the Granny Smith and I have no idea how it got its name, will have to go and look it up.

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    1. We have Granny Smiths here too, but they do not compare for flavour with a Bramley

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  6. I had also never heard of the Bramley apple. I am so glad they were able to save that first tree and clone it. Though I am not sure why the seeds from that very tree wouldn't have been enough. Thank you for another interesting story.

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    1. It is only possible to get a true species by taking cuttings from the actual tree - all of the blossom carrying the eventual fruit will have been pollinated by lots of visiting bees who may have visited hundreds of other apple trees causing cross pollination. The original Bramley was a lucky happening - the pip came from a completely different type of apple tree.

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    2. Thank you for explaining that. I am not a gardener. It isn't because of lack of interest, it is because my climate is so difficult I never know what will survive our very hot summers. I am lucky if I have a few flowers alive in July.

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  7. Dear Rosemary, I had to check if Bramley Apple trees are available in the US. I found a grower in California. I wonder if they are a true Bramley.
    You are a true super sleuth. You go to all kinds of extra trouble to get to the bottom of a story...even if it is the lowly apple.
    The apple blossom photos are extra special.

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    1. Dear Gina - I suspect that if he is a Bramley Apple grower then the apples will be correct. There are now hundreds of orchards up and down the country here of Bramley apple trees, but the University was protecting the legacy of the very first ever tree.
      The Bramley blossom is lovely, it is substantially larger than other apple blossom.

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  8. Such an interesting story of the Bramley Apple. I'm so glad that these heritage varieties are being preserved for the future. It's important for sustainability. And of course, the delicious taste!

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    1. There is a very big revival in protecting our heritage varieties, and we have many such trees growing here in Gloucestershire.




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  9. That's interesting. I know Southwell quite well (gorgeous little place) and I know the Bramley story. Didn't know the bit about the university and the rescue, that's good news.

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    1. Southwell is a lovely place and I am sure that more people would visit if only they knew about it - thanks for visiting Jenny.

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  10. Hello Rosemary,

    I agree with you that the Bramley apple is the supreme apple for pies. It is curios in North America there is not a cooking apple. I have never encountered a Bramley or Bramley like type in the USA and Canada. Cooks use Granny Smith and regular eating apples for pies. I enjoyed reading about your little excursion and discoveries.
    Helen xx

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    1. Hello Helen - that is really interesting. I have just looked on a website to see how many cooking apples we actually have here, and apparently we have over 40 different varieties. Glad that you enjoyed reading something about our little excursion and discloveries.

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  11. That's the great thing about exploring- you never know what you will discover on the journey. Apples are really strange the way they reproduce and the magic of cleft grafting where you can grow several completely different varieties of apple on one lone apple tree.

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    1. Those apples trees are the perfect answer for anyone with a a small garden - a cooking apple and a couple of different eating apples all on one tree!

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  12. Great post Rosemary, I think I remember hearing about this on a gardening programme. The blossom is so pretty too.

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    1. Thanks Suzie - it is lovely to hear from you.

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  13. Dear Rosemary,
    thanks for sharing this interesting story! I haven´t heard about Bramley apples before. So the next time I am at the supermarket, I will watch out for them (if they even sell them here in Austria). The blooms look very beautiful.
    Best wishes,
    Lisa

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    1. Dear Lisa - I am sure that they must be exported around the world - they are green, large apples and look as if someone has flattened them down slightly, so not round unlike my little illustration.

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  14. Such interesting reading, I never heard about this apple . Do you find it only in the UK ?

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    1. I believe that cultivars of Bramley apple trees must have been sent to grow all over the world just like our roses etc.

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  15. A nice story about the history of an apple!

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  16. It is amazing to think of all of those bramley apples that have been grown since!

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    1. It was a fortunate happening when Mary Ann planted her pip - a lasting legacy for us

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  17. Hello, again! What an interesting story! There are no such special apples like Bramley apples only used for cooking in my country. Its blossoms are so gorgeous and the blossoming orchard looks so refreshingly beautiful.

    Yoko

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    1. Once you have tasted a Bramley apple in a pie or dessert then no other apple with suffice.

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  18. Very interesting story... And lovely photos.
    Hugs

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  19. That is an amazing story that you discovered it is a bonus that your curiosity was aroused! Sarah x

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    1. It is interesting to note that the experts say that cuttings from any Bramley Apple tree will not root but that is not true.Cuttings are quite difficult to root. Nevertheless they can be coaxed into rooting given the perfect rooting conditions such as bottom heat and plenty of humidity.
      I got three rooted cuttings going out of seven. I gave them away for the sheer pleasure of proving the experts wrong. One is growing in North Wales ,one in New Houghton and one locally just up the road in Wollaton Park........
      It has been said by quite another expert that cuttings are nearer the original tree rather than the buds that were used for cloning because cuttings carry much more cells from the parent tree......

      Our Bramley Apple tree is over 30 years old and I must say they taste very very similar to the 'scrumpt' ones from those neglected 'Millenium' Garden Bramleys which are supposed to taste so much better than any other Bramleys in the world..

      Incidentally there is a green apple in a neighboring garden that looks like a bramley but no way is it a Bramley because it will not cook. By that I mean the pulp will not fluff up as does the Bramley pulp no matter how long it is heated.

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