RG 2003 December
| This page is part of The Cidermaking Year by Rose Grant
Good to see my old friend Tom Putt mentioned. There can be few apples that grow so well and make such healthy trees, even on poor soil. I now have 5 of them in my orchard because they do not mind the underlying chalk. They just romp away and always produce a good crop without becoming biennial. The apple is multi-purpose but they are better as cookers than eaters. However, it is when it comes to cider that they really excel. They make a very pleasing single variety cider that never fails to clear. I have to admit to a little bias, since as far as I know it is the only cider variety that originated in Dorset. Even so, it only just made it, having been discovered in Trent, near Sherborne and less than a mile from the Somerset border.
People told me that chalk soil would be no good for cider apples, but I decided to have a go anyway. The trees have been slow to grow but now after 10 - 12 years I am getting some good results especially with the so called 'vintage' varieties like Dabinett, Stoke Red and Kingston Black. The volume is not overwhelming but the fruit is clean with good flavour. It seems to me that the most important requirements for an orchard are to have free draining soil and some shelter from the prevailing wind.
I've tried various eaters as well as cider varieties on my chalky soil here in Dorset. The eating apples that do well here are; Discovery, Suntan, Johnagold, Charles Ross & Ashmeads Kernel. The latter two are exceptionally good and seem to thrive on the chalk!
This year I found two old apple trees growing wild on a common near here and I just had to make a gallon from each of them. One looked like Michelin and the other like Kingston Black. It will be interesting to see what the cider turns out like.