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The cooking apple Doctor Harvey

Doctor Harvey cooking apple

Doctor Harvey cooking apple

If there is one cooking apple which I took to very much in my younger days it is this apple. In the late Fifties we had a small orchard in East Suffolk. The village was quite isolated in the depth of rural Suffolk. At that time close to us lived a wheelright, well in his eighties. He had an ancient workshop full of magnificent old tools. He never had electricity or running water. Just his own pond on the side of his garden. Next to this pond was a very old cooking apple tree, Doctor Harvey. During the winter months he would bake these apples. This was his sweet and it would keep for a week, without the use of a fridge, which he never had the use of. I saw a lot of him during the winter months as the land work was restricted to the short daylight hours. In the evening, by the light of an oil lamp, we would enjoy eating this apple together during the cold winter months right up to the end of March. He was a bachelor all his life and was very dedicated to keep this old tree in good condition as long as he lived. He passed on to me what he knew about the history of this apple. According to him this variety was already well known for many years in Suffolk and its origin was in Cambridgeshire. In that county Doctor Harvey was a master of Trinity Hall. Gabriel Harvey owned an estate at around 1630, in which the tree had been bearing fruit for many years. It is therefore one of the oldest known English cooking/baking apples. It is a regular bearer of good sized fruit, totally green in colour. Best harvested in late October. It has a very good shelf life and as all apples do it will become sweeter as the days go by. Nowadays with the aid of a fridge or a cold store, it will retain its original flavour much longer when stored at 3 degrees Celsius. A most wonderful baking/cooking apple. Delicious apple pies as I remember it well. Definitely worth planting particularly on rootstock MM106.

Click here to go to the Tree Varieties page, where you can select this and other varieties with a provisional order

The British cooking apple

The value of cooking apples is greatly underestimated. There is no dispute that by and large we do appreciate the specific flavours of the traditional eating apples. There is always a place to be found in the garden, however large or small, for a good eating apple, particularly if it has, apart from a good flavour, good keeping qualities. Due to mass production and the fact that it may have been transported from far and wide, the flavour of supermarket fruit is always suspect. It is good to see that many people have started to plant young fruit trees in their own gardens.

But what about cooking apples? At this time of the year, during all the cold winter months, over the centuries it has been recognized by many chefs and people who love to cook, that the sharpness of a good cooking apple makes a great addition for various dishes, warm or cold, which otherwise would be too sweet on their own. Years gone by, cooking apples were transported from all over the country to London, as their taste and flavour were greatly appreciated by top London restaurants. Take for example Norfolk Beefing, a splendid flavoursome apple: the price paid for these apples was the highest during the winter months. Then there is Dr. Harvey, a long-lasting good winter cooking apple from Suffolk. In fact many counties championed their own cooking apple as the best of the lot. I will be writing about a a fair number of cooking apples, which all are splendid, each in its own way. Of course, Bramley is well known and is in no danger of fading away. However it is a real pity that supermarket culture has led us to believe that a good cooking apple needs to be green. This is way off the mark, as many excellent cooking apples are coloured. Even Bramley! The real Suffolk Bramley has a good deal of colour on its cheeks.

When you think of planting some apple trees in your garden, do give some thought to planting a good cooking apple that keeps well. It will be particularly useful to you during the winter months. I can recommend the following from experience:

Annie Elizabeth
Arthur Turner
Bramley’s Seedling
Dr. Harvey
Dumelow’s Seedling
Edward VII
Howgate Wonder
Lane Prince Albert
Newton Wonder
Norfolk Beefing
Sops in Wine

It is as well to order these varieties in advance, as numbers available are limited.