The slow development of Apple Stroudel

By | July 1, 2013

I'll be hoping for something like this in a few years time

I’ll be hoping for something like this in a few years time

During the cold, sharp Winter which never seemed to end, I took an apple grafting course with the London Orchard Project, at Hackney City Farm.

Grafting is a relatively simple idea, but amazing that it actually works. It seems to be something dreamt up in a child’s biology lab, but the simplicity is genius. I like to think it’s the force of nature to grow, despite what is thrown in its path.

The birth of my Ashmeads Kernel, on a cold snowy March day at Hackney City Farm

The birth of my Ashmeads Kernel, on a cold snowy March day at Hackney City Farm

Essentially, you take two different varieties of apple tree, slice them, and fuse them together with some tape. Job done. The inner vascular tissue of the trees fuse together, and a combination of traits occurs in the grafted tree. All very Frankenstein!

Generally, the root stock decides how vigorous the tree will be, and how high it will grow, by dictating the base of roots in the ground. Root stocks have functional names which sound like motorways, M27, M9, MM106, to indicate the orchard (or horticultural lab) they were developed at, and the batch. The upper graft or cultivar decides the kind of apple fruit, which has been developed over time by an orchardist choosing and developing desirable traits.

Most interesting to me is that a fruiting tree does not pass on a genetic copy to its fruit. Instead it passes on its own genes plus that from another pollinating apple tree (with the pollen often carried by a honey bee).
A tree that develops from a Granny Smith fruit or seed, won’t grow a Granny Smith child copy, instead growing an uncontrolled merge of two cultivars. This means that ‘pure’ varieties of apple tree have an origin, a parent tree that all other ‘copy’ child trees have been grafted from (which may or may not still be alive today). Grafting allows us to retain the ideal characteristics of specific apples (like crunch, and taste), and not converge back to a ‘wild’ stock.

Despite the coldest spring in 50 years, my grafted apple tree is flourishing

Despite the coldest spring in 50 years, my grafted apple tree is flourishing

I chose the Ashmead’s Kernel for the fruit or cultivar, and MM106 for root stock.

Ashmead’s Kernel has ‘showy’ flowers in Spring, and produces a dessert or eating (not cooking) apple with an intense flavour. The apple will have a base greenish-yellow colour, with a dull russet all over with brownish red stripes. It is thought to have been developed in Gloucester in the 18th century, so is quite an old variety.

The MM106 root stock will dictate the tree is semi-dwarfing, growing to 3-4 metres high, and 4 metres across. I should expect it to fruit in 3-4 years, or around 2016/17. Unfortunately, it’s seen as unsuitable for small gardens… so I guess we need to plan for a lot of space in our dream future home.

I’m stupidly proud if this little tree, and if it can survive grafting during the coldest spring in 50 years and at my clumsy hands, I feel pretty positive about its future.

At our wedding, the fantastic Bradshaw clan gifted us a young local apple tree,  a Lodgemore NonPariel originally raised in 1808 in Gloucestershire.
It included this little ditty;

“Apples be ripe, nuts be brown,
Petticoats up, trousers down”

Once our dream materialises, we should be able to create Apple Stroudel from our country pile with locally grown apples, pollinated from a local bee stock, with delicious natural honey comb ice cream.

 


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