Apples of Ireland
At our orchard in Lusk we grow a range of apple varieties specially chosen for flavour, and selected to provide a succession of apples ripening through the season for sale at our weekly market stall. The earliest ripening variety, which kicks off the apple season for us in late August, is ‘Discovery’. After Discovery we harvest and sell a sequence of different varieties, finishing up with the latest varieties Elstar, Wellant and Jonagold. These very late apples are also the best for storing, and in our special refrigerated fruit store we can keep them firm and juicy in good condition right up to the following June.
Some of the tastiest apples in the list below are grown in Ireland only by us, as far as we know, for example Rosette, Norfolk Royal Russet, Rowson’s Pippin, and Herefordshire Russet. There is normally good reason why such flavoursome apples are not widely grown, and never seen in shops – because generally they are either difficult to grow, or low-yielding, or uneconomical for some other reason.
We also have a collection of a few dozen heritage apple varieties of Irish and English origin, and other apples of interest. These are more of a curiosity, and some of them provide us with limited amounts of rare and unusual fruit which we occasionally have for sale at the market stall.
During the apple season we do have gaps where we don’t have enough fruit from our own orchard to sell at our weekly markets. So in order to fill these gaps we source some of the best of fruit from a few of Irelands other top apple growers! Below is a list of the apple varieties which take us from August until the following June each season, starting of course with Discovery.
‘Discovery’ normally ripens in Ireland in the 3rd or 4th week of August, and this starts off the apple season for us. It is a flat-shaped apple, with a pink to red blush over a green-yellow background. It is crisp and juicy, sweet but with a pronounced tanginess. It has a delicious ‘old-fashioned’ flavour, reminiscent of ‘Beauty of Bath’ which is one of its parents. Discovery is in season until around mid to late September.
This is a very ‘new’ apple variety, even though it is actually just a recently-discovered ultra-red version of Discovery! It is very unusual in that it has rich red colouring streaked through its flesh. It is slightly sharper than Discovery, with a rich flavour, crisp and very juicy. We have a very limited number of trees of Rosette, and it is more difficult to grow than regular Discovery. The yield is low, and the birds are very fond of it and often destroy a significant portion of the crop, so we have to sell these at more of a premium price. It is in season from late August to late September.
This is a very old variety, which used to be grown very widely but is hardly ever seen for sale any more. It is an attractive apple, flushed bright red, and somewhat conical in shape. It has a characteristic crunchy texture, and is very sweet. It is in season from mid September to Mid October.
Kerry Pippin is a very old Irish variety, originating in, yes, County Kerry of course! It is a very small apple, greenish yellow in colour, and often with some orange streaking on the sunny side. This apple is a little gem! It is very firm, crisp, and juicy, sweet with a unique delicate flavour, and a tangy edge to it. We have only a very tiny supply of this apple yet, but we have more trees planted which will provide fruit for us in the next couple of years. It is in season from early September to early October.
With Tipperary Pippin we move from the early season into the mid season. This apple is quite round in shape and is of a mostly red colour. It has a fantastic flavour and an excellent balance of sweetness and acidity. It is dense and firm, comes into season in late September, and will keep until almost Haloween at the end of October.
Norfolk Royal Russet
This is, in my opinion, the Most Delicious Apple In The World! It is of course a ‘russet’ type apple, which means it has a skin which has a fine rough texture as opposed to a smooth or glossy finish. Russet type varieties tend to have a richer flavour than smooth-skinned apples in general, but Norfolk Royal Russet is just flavour over-load! It is richly sweet and aromatic, with a nice bit of balancing acidity, and has a very pleasant nutty texture. However when you bite into it, it has an almost creamy rich juiciness that is quite unique. Unfortunately this apple tree is a bit high-maintainance, is rather difficult to grow, and gives quite small crops of fruit, and this is why it is our most expensive apple. But it is a taste experience not to be missed! We have a limited crop of these, and they are in season from late September to November.
This is an old favourite English variety. It has a unique flavour, sweet with a certain tanginess, and the typical nutty texture of russets. We only have a few trees of it, to cater for its admirers, and it is in season from early October.
The ‘regular’ ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’ is quite difficult to grow in the Irish climate, but the Holstein Cox is like a bigger hardier version of it, and thrives quite well here. It is hardy, very resistant to disease, and provides decent crops of truly delicious Cox-type apples. The biggest down-side to it, if you would call it a down-side, is that it’s apples grow much bigger than the ‘normal’ Cox. They are large, almost spherical, and yellow with an orange streaky flush on the sunny side. Exquisite flavour, really juicy, and, in fact, excellent for cooking too. Holstein Cox is in season from late September until Christmas, and although we don’t presently have a plentiful supply of them, our young trees should provide larger crops in the coming years.
Elstar has become a very popular variety among Irish apple growers. It grows quite well in Ireland, produces fairly good yields, and achieves excellent quality in terms of appearance and flavour. Elstar is a cross between Golden Delicious and Ingrid Marie. It is normally yellow with an orange/red blush on the sunny side. Some clones of Elstar can be completely red coloured. It is crisp, very juicy, very sweet, and has a good balancing acidity. Elstar stores quite well, and we normally have it available from November until May.
This apple is one of the creations of the late English apple breeder Hugh Ermen. It is a cross between Cox’s Orange Pippin and Idared. Even though it is a recent variety, it has the qualities and appearance of an old-world apple. Herefordshire Russet has, naturally, a finely russeted (rough) skin, which is golden yellow when ripe, sometimes with a faint pink blush on the sunny side. It is very firm and crisp, very juicy, aromatic, very sweet, and nicely tangy. It is a very fine looking apple and is also a good keeper. With good storage, it would keep until after Christmas, though because we don’t have a big quantity of it, we normally don’t have it in stock into the new year.
Wellant is another relatively new variety which looks like an old variety. It originated in Holland, but we are one of only two growers of the variety here in Ireland. It is dark red, with a somewhat russeted skin in places. It tends to be quite a large apple, and a large specimen of Wellant is a meal in itself! It is very firm and dense, juicy, sweet, and with quite a characteristic flavour which is extremely popular. Wellant is a fantastic keeper, and we usually have it late in the season right up until June.
Jonagold / Red Jonagold / Jonagored
This is probably now the most commonly grown dessert apple variety in Ireland. There are various versions of Jonagold which range in their degree of red colouring. It was originally bred by crossing Jonathan and Golden Delicious (hence its name!). It is richly juicy, and firm and crisp when fresh, although it tends to lose some firmness in storage. It is popular with certain people, thought not nearly as popular as Elstar, and for this reason we tend not to stock much of it, and we usually only sell it when stocks of Elstar have been sold out late in the season.
We sell apples by the Kilo at our Market Stall, or by the box direct from the orchard.
As well as the selection of dessert apples we grow at our orchard in Lusk, we also have a selection of cider apple varieties. However we do not have cider apples in huge quantities, and I often buy cider apples from other Irish growers, when I need them. I do have cider apples e.g. Dabinett and Ashton Bitter for sale in small quantities when they are in season from September to October.