This week, we have been tasting the first apples of the season, and the first crop from our young Beauty of Bath cordon. We planted nine cordon apples two winters ago. When selecting varieties, I was particularly keen to explore old varieties, and made extensive reference to George Lindley’s Guide to the Orchard and the Kitchen Garden, 1931, and Robert Hogg’s Fruit Manual, 5th ed. 1884. Eight of the nine varieties predate Lindley’s work, but Beauty of Bath is a little more recent, being introduced in 1864 by a Mr George Cooling of Bath, Somerset, and failing also to find a place in Dr Hogg’s manual.
The selection of good summer apples is rather mean when compared with the incredible diversity amongst autumn and winter sorts. It is, though, the later ripening varieties that offer the best flavours and storage properties, so we looked for just one early variety. We found it difficult to find some of the old varieties, and, for some reason that I now struggle to recall, selected the relatively more recent Beauty of Bath. Older alternatives include the quite well known Devonshire Quarrenden, and the lesser known Oslin, amongst others.
Beauty of Bath has the advantage of being one of the earliest apples to ripen, yet attains a good size. Depending on the location and weather, it is typically ripe in early August. It is quite attractive, with extensive dull red and somewhat pink flushing over pale green. The flesh, based on our limited tasting so far, is just a little soft, whilst I rather prefer a firm, crisp apple. It has a reasonable flavour, but as is typical of the early apples tends to be rather acidic. There is no hope of sweetness developing with storage as, in common with other summer apples, it does not keep, being best consumed direct from the tree. Overall, not a bad apple, and a worthwhile addition to the collection, providing early fruit when the supermarkets are still full of imported varieties.