In 2016 we planted a new heritage apple orchard on the farm. It replaced the old cherry orchard, which died in the big floods of 2010/11.
The really exciting thing about the new orchard is the diversity of apples that we’ve planted. We’re aiming for around 100 varieties. At the moment there’s about 35, and counting.
So, why so many varieties? And why are we focusing on heirloom varieties that no-one’s heard of, and hardly anyone grows?
Well, it fits with our philosophy in a number of ways:
- We’re on a mission to teach as many people as possible how to grow their own organic food and become self-sufficient for food. The heritage orchard will be a great teaching resource.
- We aim for diversity (as opposed to monoculture) in every aspect of our farm. We’ve learned the hard way that it’s our best protection against the risks of farming.
- We want to learn more about apple varieties, and we’re always keen to extend the length of the growing season. The more varieties we grow, the better the advice we can offer about early, mid-season, and late varieties.
- More variety on our table and in our diets.
- It will help to preserve heritage varieties that are currently in danger of being lost completely.
- It will give us a better diversity of apples that are suited to eating, cooking, juice, and cider.
A few thank-you’s
Our farm is also a community, so we want to thank a few important people who helped us get the heritage apple venture off the ground:
The enthusiastic Smith family helped us plant the new apple trees (vale Sue Smith).
Keith Robertson, from the Creswick Garden Club
Keith has the most amazing collection of more than 700 apple varieties in his suburban backyard in Creswick. He was generous enough to let us follow him around for a wonderful day gathering scion wood to graft the heritage apple trees. We only had room to take a fraction of his collection, but he dutifully followed our brief that we wanted varieties that (a) he knew something about (whether they’re for eating, cider, or cooking) and (b) will extend our season by being earlier or later than existing varieties that we grow.
Merv Carr (Katie’s Dad)
Despite having theoretically retired many years ago, Merv is still involved in our on-farm fruit tree nursery. The nursery grows several thousand trees each year which are sold to the public in winter. We treasure Merv’s involvement and the chance to learn his fabulous skills.
What’s a “heritage” apple anyway?
The word “heritage” is sometimes interchanged with “heirloom” (and occasionally “antique”), but what does it really mean?
Wikipedia states that an heirloom plant is “an old cultivar of a plant used for food that is grown and maintained by gardeners or farmers, particularly in isolated or ethnic minority communities of the Western world.”
That pretty much fits the bill, but it’s hard to find a firm definition of exactly how old an “old cultivar” has to be to qualify as an heirloom apple.
Without going too deep into the issue, we can probably agree that it refers to apples which can be traced back at least 50 to 100 years.
So, without further ado, here’s a list of some of the varieties we plan to have in the heritage orchard. This is not an exhaustive list, we already have new varieties coming on in the tree nursery, so we don’t really know how many we’ll end up with.
We look forward to introducing you to them as the trees come into production.
The apple list
|Common Apple Variety|
|Cider Apple Variety|
|Heritage/Heirloom Apple Variety|
|Caville Vlanc D’Hiver|
|Court Pendu Plat|
|Cox’s Orange Pippin|
|Blenheim Orange Ex-Normandy = Woodstock Pippin|
|King of Pippin|