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Where apples come from

This time of year, the orchards around Kent are bursting with beautiful apples of all shapes, sizes, tastes and colours.  Brogdale is home to the National Fruit Collections.  With 2,200 varieties of apples, it is the largest collection in the world.  But did you ever wonder where this delicious fruit we all take so for granted came from?

Where did apples originally come from?

Nikolai Vavilov was a Russian scientist who, in 1929, first worked out the apple genome.  This revealed that the ancestor of most of our apple trees was the ‘Malus Sieversii’.

This is a wild apple originating from Kazakhstan many, many thousands of years ago. Kazakhstan was renowned for its ‘apple forests’ on the Kyrgyzstan-Kazakhstan China border in particular the Tien Shan “Mountains of Heaven”.  At the heart of this area is the Almaty region of Kazakhstan, whose former capital Alma Ata translates to “Father of Apples”  This is where the apples we now enjoy originally came from.

How did apples arrive in England?

Like many things, we have the Romans to thank for bringing apples to these shores. It’s hard to imagine Britain without orchards and apples, but that was the case before Roman times. The Romans discovered apples in Syria and played an important role in transporting them using the Silk Road to the rest of their Empire.

About grafting

At Grow, we take our hats off to the Romans who were expert grafters.  This is the technique we use to grow our own apple trees – using stock from the National Fruit Collections at Brogdale.  Grafting is necessary as apple trees grown from seed will have completely different DNA than their parent tree.  This can make them look and taste very different from the original tree.

Grafting is the process where you fuse the variety (by taking a piece of graftwood from the parent tree) onto the rootstock.   There are many delicious apples named as “pippins” grown from the pip and often delicious by happy coincidence!

It’s incredible that the Romans were so expert at this process.  This enabled them to develop the extensive range of tasty apples – many of which we enjoy in Britain today.

More information

​For more information about grafting and rootstocks, take a look at our earlier blog here.

To find out which apple trees are currently available from Grow at Brogdale, check out our shop here.