Brogdale, home of the National Fruit Collection

I visited Brogdale, near Faversham in October, but I’m definitely going back in the Spring. Imagine seeing these rows in blossom …

Although the apples are like flowers in themselves…

As well as apples, there are pears, cherries, gooseberries, blackcurrants, and nuts in Brogdale, but it was the apples I was particularly interested in. Over 2,300 varieties apparently – some with poetic names like Marriage Maker and Wealthy;

while others are more descriptive:

And it’s not just about being decorative or yummy of course; the collection is run by Reading University for scientic purposes, and you can see the new rootstock – smaller and more efficient – getting ready to take over apple production, rather like young army recruits:

It’s lovely though to feel that romanticism isn’t dead here. I couldn’t help but be moved by how these two ‘Duchess of Oldenburg’ trees are in their own separate row. I know, I know it’ll be for some practical reason but be honest, can’t you just imagine them gossiping together about how the rest of the apples in the field are letting the side down!

There’s something about apples that takes me straight back to childhood. Not just how naughty it felt to take an apple from the tree when there were ‘perfectly good windfalls’ to be picked up, but look, how beautiful…

(There is a star on that second apple, isn’t there? Please tell me I’m not making that up!)

And while buying an empty bag and choosing a selection of apples pick-a-mix style is like being given a goodie bag at a children’s party..

… the good news is that I can make cakes from them now too!

So take a cake, make a cup of tea and here’s an apple story for you …

NIGHT FRUIT

A bobbing bouncing stream of apple skin snaking its way around the city, pips thrown mischievously through keyholes in the hope they’ll take …

… the bite of apple flesh lodges in the Princess’s throat, blocking off air until the prince moves her coffin to his house, the jolt of the carriage, and Gavin, who dreams of working with apples, and who will, if you’re not careful, tell you all day about the grafting and the harvesting of them, likes this story, even though his friends say it’s a girl’s story, but what he wants to know is what type of apple it was. Was it a Discovery, or an Egremont Russet, a Lord Lambourne, or a Merton Charm., until his mother says, it was a red apple, OK? And, even though she’s exhausted, nearly out of patience, she kisses him goodnight. Gavin can’t get to sleep. A red apple. Maybe a Bloody Ploughman, a King’s Acre Pippin. Or a Red Windsor, considering that it was a Queen who gave the apple. He’s still awake when his mother creeps in. It was a Pine Golden Pippin apple, she says. A russet. Sweet.

… and the maggot hole you nearly miss, leading done to the core, the story hidden deep inside…

… why a Golden Delicious is allowed to be called that when it’s neither golden or delicious, this is what Susanne asks her husband. A green OK would be a better name, she says, and although James tries to grunt as if he cares, she knows he doesn’t and that this shouldn’t, but does, matter. But also that neither of them will say anything. They never do. Later in bed, he will dream of being Paris but instead of judging the nymphs, he’s chasing them, throwing hard apples as if he means to hurt, until one nymph, bored and bruised, stops and lobs one back. He sees her face as he catches the ball which has turned into a baby, and shocked awake, he reaches for Susanne. You’re delicious, he surprises them both by saying, as they drift back, smiling, to sleep.

… windfalls they call them, as if the wind had picked them up and dropped them without thinking…

… an apple never falls far from the tree, the doctor says. He wants to know more about Gavin’s father because this might help them to determine the severity of the symptoms. She says she doesn’t know; she’s hardened herself by now to the look she’ll get, but this time round there’s not even sympathy in the doctor’s gaze. He is matter of fact as he outlines Gavin’s future. It’ll be hard work, he says, but you’ll cope. And because she knows this too, and this is the first doctor she wants to confess to about how Gavin is her harvest and how it feels to be the worm, she starts to speak. He was called James, she says so quietly the doctor almost doesn’t hear. He was married, I don’t think he even knew my name. It’s important, the doctor says, we get in touch with him. And she nods.

… while high above, from New Zealand, Australia, Spain, America, frozen in crates, a uniform army of perfect apples fly in.

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