These fruit are the apple of my eye

By Beatrice Hawkins

I picked up an interesting, small free magazine during last week that tells me all I need to know about growing apples and stone fruit, especially in small areas or pots.

I have two lemon trees in pots and two finger limes also although one is looking decidedly sick at present.

It was neglected while I was away for a while but so was its partner and it is still looking fine and flowering well.

I have watered and fed it and done all the usual revitalising things so will wait and see how it goes.

After reading this small magazine, I am really tempted to try at least an apple and a peach in a pot or espaliered on my fence and perhaps a low chill cherry.

Oh it is so easy to get carried away but nothing beats the taste of tree fresh fruit.

There is a range of dwarf, compact and columnar trees that would suit a number of situations and espaliering is something I have always wanted to try.

The range of columnar apple trees that I read about were named for various dances, were complimentary pollinators and required little or no pruning. Maybe this would be a better idea than the time consuming practice of espalier.

A Waltz and a Flamenco might be a good combination?

Then there was a range of dwarf trees. These provided some of the recognisable varieties such as Gala, Pink Lady and Golden Delicious, perfect for growing in large pots or maybe half wine barrels spaced about 2.5 metres apart. Of course good drainage and good soil is absolutely necessary to success in trying this.

Then there is a range of really miniature trees that still produce full sized fruit and this look fantastic growing in a pot in a courtyard or a sunny patio. The “flat” peaches and nectarines are so decorative and practical for lunch boxes. These have been developed by crossing with 400-year-old Asian varieties.

Unlike many apples, cherries, plums and other stone fruit, peaches are self-pollinating.

They originated in China about 4000 years ago and paintings of the fruit were found in a town destroyed by Mt. Vesuvius in 78BC suggesting that the fruit was known in Europe at least as early as that.

Nashi fruit is relatively new to supermarket shelves although they are believed to have been brought to Australia by the Chinese in the 1850s during the gold rush era.

I am reliably assured that a very old apricot variety called Moorpark is among the best.

It was developed in England in the 1600s and worldwide is considered one of the best for flavour, for eating fresh, for cooking, drying and for juice.

I am mainly tempted to grow the apricot in winner because I have given up trying to buy apricots to eat because I have been disappointed to many times.

The fruit will look luscious and appealing and the reality turns out to be dry, floury and tasteless so maybe a Moorpark will be the choice. They are self-pollinating so I won’t have to grow two trees because I really don’t have the room.

Plums are another favourite with so many varieties and so good for you being a great source of fibre, iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and vitamins A and C while low in sodium, fat, calories and cholesterol.

The new Queen Garnet variety, which was developed quite accidentally in Queensland by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, is promising wonderful things in many areas.

It is first of all an extremely attractive dark fruit with the same coloured flesh and is really great tasting.

It is well recognised that “blue” coloured fruit is high in antioxidants and the barometer for measuring this seems to be, what else, blueberries!

Queen Garnet plums have approximately three to six times the antioxidants of the tiny, tasty berries and so are being touted as a super food in helping control so-called lifestyle diseases such as obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Unfortunately I won’t be able to grow one of these as they are only grown under licence and not available to home growers. From what I’ve seen they are a form that would be good in a small yard. Oh, well, maybe sometime in the future.

How I wish I was younger and had a bigger area to be able to grow everything I am interested in. I would still need some help as my ambitions have always exceeded my abilities in many areas!

Now is the time to get busy and source the bare rooted trees for planting if you have the space but just checking out catalogues and dreaming is entertaining and so much fun!

Some apple trivia for your next trivia night …

* Apples are believed to have originated in Central Asia with their wild ancestor, Malus sieversii, still found there today.

* The pilgrims are responsible for introducing apples to America in 1620 with the first apple orchard in North America planted by the Reverend William Blaxton in Boston in 1625.

* Captain Bligh introduced apples to Tasmania in the 1700s and by the 1820s Tasmania was exporting the excess to the mainland.

* Exporting to England from Tasmania began in 1876 and to Germany in 1901.

* Granny Smith apples appeared in the garden of Maria Anne Smith in Eastwood, Sydney, NSW in 1868.

* Apples do not grow true from a seed. Each seed grows into a unique tree.

* Grafting to root stock is the only way to get exactly the same apple and the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans knew how to do this as did the Celts.

* The first mention of Apples in England is by King Alfred in 885AD with Royalty always liking apples and Henry VII reportedly paying huge sums for individual apples.

* Henry VIII had an orchard in Kent and imported French gardeners to look after it.

* Catherine the Great was such a fan of the Golden Pippin she had them imported to Russia with each apple wrapped individually in real silver paper.

* Because apple sauce is high in pectin it can be used as a treatment for stomach upsets.

* Pears, apples and quinces are all members of the Rosaceae (rose) family.

* The avocado is often called “avocado pear” and are pear shaped but this is where the relationship ends as they are in fact classified as a berry!

Lastly remember the old adage – “An apple a day keeps the doctor away!”

*This is an old article that has been digitised so our readers have access to our full catalogue.