Cornish apple varieties

From Pig’s Snout to Tregonna King, Cornwall is home to an array of apple varieties of inspired nomenclature

The apple season is almost over (especially this year, when many a harvest has, unfortunately, been either too early or unsatisfactory – or both). There has been much gathering and pressing, including of the 100% Cornish cider apples that go into Artisan Cider Vinegar. Thus, I thought I’d introduce you to the delights of some classic Cornish varieties.

While not one of the UK’s most famous cider areas, mild and moist Cornwall has long grown apples — for pressing as well as other purposes. Particularly in the deep, sheltered valleys and estuaries of the Helford, Fowey, Fal, and Tamar and the Camel and Hayle valleys on the north coast, fruit orchards have flourished for centuries. Both farmers and farm animals, such as workhorses, would have been put to work operating the heavy stone and wood apple mills and presses.

Sheep graze in a Cornish orchard

These days, while Healey’s, Cornish Orchards, and a few other larger cider making businesses steal the limelight, newer ‘fine cider’ makers like Ripe Cider and Vagrant Cider, as well as various small-scale farmhouse producers, are increasingly coming to the fore. They’re embracing the traditional, predominantly sharp apples that thrive in Cornwall, as well as bringing in more tannic cider varieties from the UK’s cider heartland, the so-called ‘Three Counties’ of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire, and further afield.

They do have great stuff to work with at home, though. Indeed, the first Cornish Apple Day in 1991 involved the identification of 120 local varieties, including a lost one — the delightfully named ‘Red Rollo’.

Many traditional cider varieties of Cornwall have names redolent of Tolkien: examples include Colloggett Pippin, Hamlyn, Lord of the Isles, and Dufflin. Some Cornish apples have dainty names: Manaccan Primrose and Cornish Gillyflower. Others have incongruous ones: Breadfruit and Pear Apple. Some, finally, are downright idiosyncratic — Improved Keswick and Cornish Honeypinnick, anyone? I could go on.

— Beatrix Swanson

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