I am starting this post on Saturday night, to be completed and published on Sunday as usual. I am just so excited, I can’t help myself. One of my weakness, the lack of patience, sort of.

My research into the oldest varieties of apples one can find in New Zealand. I limit my list to pre-1800, otherwise I will have too many apples in my collection, literally too much for the Orchard Cottage. I tried to get the year as accurate as I can with extensive Google-ing, but as usual, there might be some margin of error.

  • Apple Calville Blanc D Hiver (1598) – Heritage Apple. A revered French Apple dating back to 1598. The medium sized fruit are pale green with a splattering of red dots. The flesh is aromatic, sweet, spicy and juicy making it a popular dessert apple especially for ‘Tarte aux Pomme’. Very high in Vitamin C, ripe in late summer. Deciduous.
  • Apple Golden Pippin (1629) – An extremely ancient and revered apple with smooth golden yellow skin blushed softly with a light russet. The sweet yellow flesh has a mild flavour and plenty of juice. Crisp and crunchy from the first bite. Perfect for making a drop of cider! Pollinate with ‘Granny Smith’. Delicious and deciduous.
  • Apple Rhode Island Greening (1650) – Triploid. Rhode Island USA – 1650. Fruits have coarse, juicy flesh with a pleasant flavour. Pick April. keeps 5-6 months.
  • Apple Gravenstein (1669) – The best early apple for cooking. Medium to large fruit, skin greenish yellow with orange-red stripes. The creamy flesh is very juicy, crisp, fine textured, aromatic and slightly acidic. Vigorous variety, needs 2 pollenizers to set fruit. Use Egremont Russet or Irish Peach. Deciduous.
  • Apple Devonshire Quarrenden (1676) – A beautiful looking apple with bright red skin and sweet flesh that is said to carry a distinctive strawberry flavour. Very popular in Victorian times as a dessert apple but actually dates from Devon in 1676 hence the name. Partially self-fertile but will fruit better with company. Deciduous.
  • Apple Ribston Pippin (1688) – Medium sized flat fruit. The skin is yellow, flushed with orange and streaked withred. Has a sweet, aromatic, sub acid flavour.
  • Apple Golden Reinette (1600s) – Heritage Apple. An ancient variety from Europe that is worth growing for the historical interest alone. The skin is yellow with a strong flush of red and lightly russeted. A good eating apple or can be used for making cider. Good disease resistance. Deciduous. This apple will perform best with a pollination partner, choose from ‘Akane’, ‘Fuji’ or ‘Gala’.
  • Apple Royal Wilding (1600s) – Type: Classic bittersweet cider apple (Drinker). Looks: Pale yellow (slight green tinge) with virtually no flush. Often considerable golden russet in cavity and networked over the cheek. Medium to large size; a little ribbed. Flavour: A melting mild bittersweet. Makes a rich, pleasantly aromatic, cider comparable with Dabinett. Heritage: Another fine apple heralding from the St. Thomas district of Exeter. It came to prominence in Devon at the beginning of the 18th Century; when cider formed part of farm labourers’ wages. No doubt this contributed to its propagation and reputation as a fine old-fashioned bittersweet. Possibly an important link in the chain from the older Styre (Stiar) type apples, used in rough Devon Scrumpy, and more modern (Somerset) cider apples such as Dabinett and Kingston Black. It is also found in Somerset and Hereford where it may go by the name of Cadbury or Pounset. Habit: Similar to many pears in forming an upright, spreading tree of longevity; some susceptibility to scap. Mid season fruiting, although slow to crop – requires a favourable season. In Herefordshire it was noted as a good indicator of the season’s overall apple productivity.
  • Apple Sommerset Red Streak (1600s) – From Sutton Montis, Somerset, England. Vigorous, fairly upright tree. Mid-season bloom; pollinated with Brown’s Apple, Kingston Black, Dabinett and Michelin. Medium, flat, conical fruit with a short stalk; partly open eye in a small shallow basin. Tough skin; an attractive bright red with a stripe, and slight russet. Flesh greeny white, rubbery, woolly, sweet, juicy, astringent. Mid to late harvest; very good yield. Bittersweet; producing a mild or medium cider.
  • Apple Blenheim Orange (1740) – A well known English heritage apple from 1740. Large, round, flat fruit with skin that is shaded orange-yellow. The yellow flesh is crisp, sweet, juicy and aromatic with a distinctive nutty flavour. Great for fresh eating or cooking. Plant with pollinators ‘Cox’s Orange and ‘Gala’.
  • Apple Reinette Du Canada (1771) – Heritage Apple. From France dating back to 1771. Ripens very late in the season and stores exceptionally well. The dull green skin is sometimes flushed with a little red and often russeted. The creamy white flesh is firm and juicy with a spicy flavour. Excellent dessert apple. Deciduous.
  • Apple Keswick Codlin (1793) – Early Season cooks up soft and fluffy. Doesn’t keep long 2-3 weeks- good for processing. Lincolnshire 1793 in a Castle rubbish dump!
  • Apple Alexander (1700s) – Russia 1700’s March. Green with red stripes Ready may/June ex for sauce, but doesn’t keep.
  • Apple Alfriston (1700s) – Raised in the late 1700’s by Mr Shepherd at Uckfield, Sussex. Named Shepherds Pippin but renamed Alfriston in 1819. Fruits are soft, dense and acidic. Good cooker. Ready April. Keeps 5-6 months.
  • Apple Ralls Janet (1700s) – Medium in size and roundish in shape, the greenish yellow skin has hues of pink,red and crimson. Yellowish flesh with a greenish tinge is dense, crisp and tenderwith a tart-sweet balance of flavor..
  • Apple Sweet Alford (1700s) – Heritage Apple. This apple mainly used in Cider making has small pale yellow fruit that are blushed with pink. The high quality flesh is sweet and juicy. Originates from Devon. Deciduous.
  • Apple Tan Montgomery (1700s) – A.K.A. Early Julian. Thought to have originated in Scotland. It was known before 1800. Fruits have crisp flesh with an acid flavour. Cooking and eating. Ready early March.
  • Apple Tom Putt (1700s) – Heritage Cider Apple. This English Apple dates back to the late 1700’s. The fruit which ripen in autumn are large and have a flattish appearance. The skin is green flushed red and the flesh is firm and quite sharp in flavour. A superb cooking apple and perfect for making Cider. Deciduous. Named after the Reverend Tom Putt, who was the Rector of Trent when this apple was named.
  • Apple Northwood (1700s) –  “Vintage cider”.  English, 18th century.  Bloom mid season.  Tree medium vigor.  Late harvest.
  • Apple Sweet Coppin (1700s) – From Devon, England. Vigorous, semi-spreading tree; precocious; slight susceptibility to scab. Mid–late season bloom, self-fertile, good pollinator with Reine des Hâtives, Improved Foxwhelp, Yarlington and Michelin. Medium to large, conical fruit. Dry, yellow to yellowish-green skin with slight blush. Flesh white, soft, no astringency. Mid harvest, very good cropping, biennial with more than 3 weeks storage. Sweet; produces a sweet pure cider. Late mid-season maturity.  Makes “vintage” cider, but no astringency.  Mid season flowering. Precocious and productive.  Very low tannins.  Fruit 2-1/2″.  Tends to go biennial. Tolerant to blight.   England, early 18th century.
  • Apple Yorkshire Greening (1700s) – Large, roundish, irregular, and flattened. Skin dark green, striped with dull red next the sun. Stalk short and thick. Eye closed. Flesh white, and pleasantly acid. One of the best kitchen apples. Mid season (April) – keeps 3-4 months

Notable mention of apples rated as excellent for human health.

  • Apple Fuero Rous (Traditional) – A traditional French cider apple identified as having substantial levels of photochemicals (even higher than Monty’s surprise), with medicinal potential, in the skin and flesh of the apple. Based on my research, this variety is potentially very old going back to the 1000s!
  • Apple Hetlina (1854) – This Heritage Apple from Europe is considered to be suitable for organic gardeners as it is particularly reliable and disease resistant. The medium sized fruit are ready in February-March and have green, blushed red skin. The flesh is crisp and firm with a high level of anti-oxidants. Deciduous.
  • Apple Tropicana (Heritage) – Deep red, waxy skin and white flesh that is tinted red. High levels of health-promoting anthocyanins are present in the fruit. The flavour and aroma of this apple is distinctively ‘tropical’ hence the name. Matures about late March. A really different and special apple that is well worth growing. Deciduous.
  • Apple Monty’s Surprise (1900s) – A unique NZ apple with strong disease resistance and very large, (up to 400grams) crisp and juicy fruit that are full of flavour. The skin of this apple has a high flavanoid count aiding human disease prevention. It’s got to be good for you! Ripens in April. Deciduous. Also the very large (up to 400grams) fruit on Monty’s Surprise may mean you need to provide branch support.

As for pre-1800 pears. I have included Winter Nelis (1807) and some other key interest as pollinators. The interesting bit here is that if you have all 4 pre-1800 varieties, you might only have fruit from Seckel and maybe Jargonelle. WBC, LBJ, and Seckel falls into a group where their pollen are incompatible! Jargonelle is a triploid, which accepts pollen but its own pollen is rather sterile. Therefore, Winter Nelis is chosen as the pollinator for them all. At the Orchard Cottage, I have a Doyenne du Comice (1849) and Nijisseiki (1898) which can provide pollen for the ancient quartet.

  • Pear Jargonelle (1600s) – A heritage Pear that dates back to 1600 so if it is still around today it has to be good if not great. The long, conical greenish-yellow fruit are of very good quality and ripen around February. Very hardy and robust. Pollinate with Conference, Durondeau or Winter Nelis. Deciduous.
  • Pear William Bon Chretien (1770) – A sweet and delicious pear which is popular for desserts and bottling. The pale green skin is soft yellow when fully ripe. Ready to eat from late January to February. Pollinate with Beurre Bosc or Winter Nelis. This pear has an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. Deciduous. Grafted on to Quince rootstock for size control.
  • Pear Louise Bon Jersey (1780) – Elongated, medium size pear with smooth green skin heavily blushed with bronze-red. Delicious, aromatic, very juicy fruit with melt in your mouth flesh. A reliable producer and a fairly vigorous tree. Pollinate with Packhams Triumph, Winter Nelis or Conference. Deciduous. Grafted on to Quince to keep compact for the home garden. This pear has an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society. (RHS AGM)
  • Pear Seckel (1700s) – Small things do come in small parcels. Bite into this chubby little gourmet pear and you will have a flavour explosion of honey-sweet, very juicy flesh. Red-brown skin with prominent white dots. Upright tree. Pollinator Conference, Packhams Triumph or Winter Nelis. Deciduous.
  • Pear Winter Nelis (1807) – This is a nice small pear with yellow-green skin that is lightly russeted. The flesh is quite firm with a fine texture and good flavour. Nice and sweet and juicy. Good for fresh eating or preserving if you have the time. Produces good reliable crops. Pollinate with Beurre Bosc or Williams Bon Chretien. Deciduous. This form of ‘Winter Nelis’ is grafted on to Quince Rootstock which controls the size your tree will grow to.
  • Pear Doyenne du Comice (1849) – A delicious gourmet pear regarded by many as the pear with the finest flavour. Green skin blushed pink and white, melting, sweet, juicy flesh. Pollinate with Beurre Bosc, William Bon Chretien or Winter Nelis. A vigorous grower that will do best in a sunny sheltered position. Deciduous. Doyenne du Comice has been awarded an Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society. Grafted on to Quince rootstock for size control.
  • Nashi Pear Nijisseiki (1898) – Nijiseki is the most important traditional Nashi Pear variety in Japan. Large rounded fruit have a smooth, greenish yellow skin and sweet juicy flesh. Mid season. Self fertile.

On to pre-1800 plums. I am not kidding when I record Damson as a 10th century introduction, that’s what Mr Google told me! These are all European plums. The oldest Japanese plum I managed to research is Burbank (1883), and since Japanese plum are usually not self-fertile, I shall add Santa Rosa (1906) to the list.

  • Plum Damson (1000s) – Damsons are small, tart oval plums with blue-black skin and green- yellow flesh. Mainly grown for bottling and other culinary uses. Highly recommend for Damson Gin. A heavy cropper in late January. Self fertile, compact grower, performs best in colder areas. Deciduous.
  • Plum Greengage (1724) – A versatile little plum with greenish yellow fruit that tastes like pure nectar. Excellent straight off the tree but also good for jam and desserts. Self fertile but will perform well with a companion such as Coe’s Golden Drop. Happiest in colder areas as it is a European. Deciduous.
  • Plum Coe’s Golden Drop (1700s) – This European Plum ripens quite late in the season, towards March. It is worth the wait as the large rich, juicy, golden fruit have a delicious flavour. Likes the best sunny position to do really well. Pollinate with Greengage or Reine Claude de Bavay. Deciduous. This plum is suitable for warmer districts.
  • Plum Burbank ( 1883) – This plum has large round dark red fruit with yellow flesh that is sweet, juicy and aromatic. The fruit ripens around February. Crops well. Partially self fertile but performs best with either Santa Rosa, Omega or Duffs early Jewel. Deciduous.
  • Plum Santa Rosa (1906) – This plum is rated a 10. Firm sweet juicy fruit that is highly aromatic. Considered to be one of the best tasting plums in the world! The skin is crimson to purple and the flesh is yellow blushed pink. Hardy and vigorous. Pollinate with Omega or Black Doris. Deciduous. Though Santa Rosa is often described as partially Self-fertile it will perform better with a near by partner.

So, the question, why am I so obsessed with the ancient varieties? There is no word I can use to describe their value. They are priceless. They have staked their claim on earth, for many decades. They witnessed the wars, the revolutions. Yet, when the world is in such a mess up state, they did not throw in the towel and says “I’m out of here!”. They just keep doing what they have been doing for years. Despite new varieties being introduced for mass production, for inter-continent consumption, for consistency, for everything un-romantic, these ancients still keep on keeping on. Maybe, they still have what it takes to nourish the human soul. And their nectar and pollen keeps the bees healthy.

Perhaps, I foolishly thought that when I take a bite on a 1598 apple, or a 1600s pear, or a 1000s plum, I’ll be taken back in time, to when the people are not so disconnected from the land. That connection with the land, that made a humble man, is now lost. The general population nowadays have no worries about a drought throwing them into famine. We’ll probably merely feel uncomfortable for not having sufficient water to take a relaxing hot bath every day.

I honestly do not know why I am collecting them! It just drop in as a calling one day, a couple of weeks ago. The voice in there says, “gather ancient varieties”. Here I am, I’ve got all the pears. I’ll get the plums next season. I’ve got most of the apples except, Royal Wilding, Sommerset Red Streak, Rhode Island Greening, Ribston Pippin, Ralls Janet, Northwood, Sweet Coppin, Yorkshire Greening, and Fuero Rous. 9 more to go, to come from far North and far South. I want to get them on a mm106 rootstock.

I’m giving away my extra tomato seedlings.

  • Tomato Dagma’s Perfection – Koanga Preservation Pack. A vigorous and abundant producer of medium-sized, slightly flattened, pale-yellow fruits with delicate, light red striping. Deliciously flavorful with overtones of tropical fruit and subtle hints of lime. Firm, juicy and elegant in the mouth, and jewel-like in appearance.
  • Tomato Black Cherry – Koanga Gardens. This variety was an outstanding one in our last trial. Medium sized black cherry tomatoes with great flavour. Very healthy plants.
  • Tomato Indigo Rose – Kings Seeds.This striking tomato is one of the darkest tomatoes bred so far. Beautiful eye-catching fruit are firm with good flavour. The 30-50g cocktail sized round fruit are green when unripe, purple red when ripe and develop a dark purple pigment when exposed to direct sunlight. Fruit are borne in clusters of 6-8 on vigorous vines with a healthy resistance to fungal disease and blight. Indeterminate.
  • Tomato Black from Tula – Kings Seeds.Russian heirloom rated as possibly the best tasting black tomato with a full rich and complex flavour. The medium sized fruit are considered quite ugly with a round slightly flattened shape, mahogany red colour with dark green gel around the seeds when ripe and sometimes green shoulders. A must try for tomato groupies. Indeterminate.
  • Tomato Cherokee Purple – Kings Seeds.This variety can be traced back more than 100 years to a Cherokee Indian Tribe. The fruit average 280-340g and are noted for their unusual flavour and colour. The thin skin is a deep dusky pink that verges on violet with Brownish purple shoulders. The flesh is dark brick red with greenish gel around the seeds but for all this its flavour is outstandingly sweet and intense. Indeterminate.
  • Tomato Black Zebra – Kings Seeds.Highly regarded in taste tests and quite beautiful darker version of Green Zebra. The perfectly round 5cm fruit have deep red skin with vertical dark green and mahogany streaks on its dark red firm flesh. It has a rich flavour with hints of smoke and sweetness. A prolific producer with good disease resistance and drought tolerance.
  • Tomato Oaxacan Jewel – Kings Seeds. Stunning yellow beefsteak with red and orange marbling. The fruit have a rich sweet flavour with a firm meaty texture. Productive plants have a good resistance to pests and disease. Indeterminate.

I potted 3 of each that I am keeping into PB12 and the extras into PB3. PB12 is a killer, I used bags and bags of compost! I contributed one each to Grant and Helen’s greenhouse. So, I have 2 of each to give away to anyone who wanted to try interesting varieties. The varieties I have chosen are either for their preservation value, disease resistance, or anti-oxidant value.

On Saturday afternoon, double rainbow after a snow storm quickie. I managed to plant out Onion Pukekohe Longkeeper seedlings into the ground, and also the Apple Tropicana to the trellis, and Pear William Bon Chretien in the pot. That’s pretty much it. I’ll pot up the Saffron corms on Sunday with my special mix of bark, peat,  pumice, coir, compost, EF Nature’s Garden, Rok Solid, and Neem Granules. I’m going to experiment with dwarf sunflowers as pot mates while the corms are dormant through Summer.

The green aphids that were sucking themselves crazy on Climbing Rose Lydia are missing! Gone! They were still there on Friday. But Saturday, gone! The plant grew a few centimeters too! I didn’t even managed to torture them with Neem oil! What did I gave them? I sprayed Homeopathic Sulfur C200.  I sprayed Seasol. I doused them with milk that had been sitting in the fridge for 2 weeks. I sprayed Koanga EF Bio Pesticide. So, what went right? Maybe none of the above work. Maybe a ladybug just stumbled upon and the rest is history.

I dragged the straw bale live compost to a weedy spot which the mower is unable to get to. It had to move to make way for the potted ancients.

The wildflowers meadow is slowly taking shape. Borage. Phacelia. Alyssum. Daisy. Poppy!

This is a very misleading carrot! The root is only 20cm deep! However, its probably due to the tighter soil beneath as their ability to put out root is heavily influenced by soil condition. Fresh carrot is really fragrant, and the happyness and satisfaction that comes with cooking with your very first homegrown carrot is priceless!

I have started brewing water kefir. And drank 2L of them last week. The first fermentation was done in a 3L jar. I had three 1L bottles, which I pour the finished liquid into for the secondary fermentation. However, I should get more 1L bottles if I want to have a longer secondary fermentation since the first fermentation only takes 3 days.

I finished reading The Fruit Tree Handbook by Ben Pike. It was a great book, filled with knowledge on the history of the cultivars, this is the only book that goes into the details, out of so many gardening books. However, I won’t recommend the use of Pyrethrum as the main tool against insect pest, it merely knocks them out. As in KO and not Fatality. Nor the harvest of cherries with a pair of scissors. Otherwise, highly recommended reading!

I moved Caesar’s kennel outside. The cottage looks more spacious now. And Caesar have a proper shelter outdoors, which means I can chain him outside and go for a day away without worrying about him not able to hold his bladder.

*I just had a quick edit and added another 4 pre-1800 apples onto the list.