My first introduction to ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ was through Roald Dahl’s Danny the Champion of World. It was the wonderful roll of the name that struck me, aged seven or eight, for it seemed nothing like the anonymous cooking apples that grew in the garden (pictured) or the usual South African supermarket fare, which offered a choice of ‘Granny Smith’, ‘Golden Delicious’ and ‘red ones’.
I’m sure, however, that ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ is to be found in Britain’s National Fruit Collections on Brogdale Farm, Kent. Over 2 000 varieties of apple are grown there, yet Kent’s orchards have been reduced by over 85 per cent in the past 50 years, as Lara Barton explains in this poignant video clip in today’s Guardian online.
How many varieties of apple does one find in British supermarkets today? The variety is greater than that of my southern childhood, but I can think of only five or six, at most.
I expect the fall in number is a matter of commercial expedience combined with consumer demand, yet there is something to be said for a good apple with crunch and taste. It’s one of life’s finer things.
Last weekend I made a fruit tart – I say fruit, rather than apple, since I’d insufficient ‘Bramley’ apples and so topped up the filling with pears. The scent of a buttery case crisping in the oven and of the fruit collapsing in a mixture of cinnamon, nutmeg and honey while the kitchen windows steamed up against the cold outside was delightful. With all the ghouls and beasties on loose, it was a reassuring way to pass Halloween.