The apple ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’, discovered in the first half of the nineteenth century, went on in England to become one of the most famous and widely esteemed apples from then well into the twentieth century. That success was not duplicated in North America, where it does not seem to thrive as it does in parts of England. But its qualities have been celebrated in the British literature so well and for so long that we Americans, at least those of us who read, often harbor a curiosity about it, and it is now readily available from mail-order nurseries which specialize in fruit trees. I’ve got one in a pot on a dwarfing stock – but it has yet to fruit. My friend John W tells me that it did not do well for him when he tried it.
The top image above shows it as it appeared in George Bunyard’s Apples and Pears, number 9 in the Present Day Gardening series published around 1911. Earlier this year I was able to obtain the complete seventeen volume Present Day Gardening series. I had acquired a few volumes over the years, but never expected to find the whole series offered. When it appeared on a British dealers list early this year, I jumped at the chance and was successful. When I look back on my life I sometimes wonder if I have spent more money on books or on bulbs – with rarely any regret.
The excellence of ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ caused it to be widely used in hybridizing new apples. One such hybrid, raised in New Zealand in the 1930s, was 'Kidd's Orange Red' the result of a cross of 'Cox's Orange Pippin' and 'Red Delicious'. From this hybrid was raised what is now one of the most widely grown commercial apples, and that’s what you see in another of the mages above: the apple ‘Gala’ So ‘Gala’ is a grandchild of ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’. The parents of 'Gala' were 'Golden Delicious' and 'Kidd's Orange Red'.
Among apple growers, the word ‘pippin’ means ‘seedling’. And ‘pips’ are seeds. George Bunyard’s little book contains recipes for using apples, and one of those recipes calls for something I’ve never seen before in a recipe: bruised apple pips. The recipe is for Apple Peel Jelly, and in addition to the apple peels and pips, it used the cores. How’s that for frugal kitchen management! Since apple pips contain cyanogenic glycosides, I’m not sure I want to try this one before doing more research. I have a hunch that the heat used to prepare the jelly will denature the poisonous properties, but I'm not sure.
One of my favorite apple memories involves of all things bears. Bears of course are very fond of apples. Years ago, Wayne and I drove out into the Virginia countryside to visit a friend whose place was on a mountain top accessed by a long fire road. The fire road passed through dimly lit forest for most of its length, and at the end we emerged into the clearing of several acres extent where the house is sited. In the clearing there are old apple trees here and there, and as our eyes adjusted to the suddenly bright conditions of the open field, we were treated to the enchanting sight of deer eating windfall apples under the trees. Of course, we stopped to take this in, and I’m so glad we did, because that left us privy to act two: some of the branches of one of the apple trees began to tremble, and the deer scattered. Then a fat black bear tumbled out of the tree, looked around and saw us, and then abandoned its meal and ambled off into the woods.
I think I’ve read that in the areas of central Asia where apples are thought to have originated, bears play an important part in dispersing the apple seeds.
For about a century and a half Bunyard was an important name among British fruit growers. The George Bunyard mentioned above is not to be confused with the more famous –at least among people of our times– Edward Ashdown Bunyard. For more about Edward, see here:https://prospectbooks.co.uk/products-page/current-titles/the-downright-epicure-essays-on-edward-bunyard/
Parts of this post were drawn from or checked against various Wikipedia entries.