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Orchard renaissance revitalises Scottish apple industry

It's National Apple Day so we decided to take a look at Scotland's apple growing renaissance

Published: October 21, 2015

Scottish Apples no longer means a nostalgic look at what we grew in ancient garden collections and sobbing over poorly managed ageing trees.

Skilled grafters and pruners are back on the job, devolving their skills to individuals on allotments, in gardens, community orchards and farms, through a proliferation of workshops . Scotland is in the grip of an orchard renaissance – evidenced by the 300 strong membership of an active Facebook SOC (Scottish Orchard Collective)!

During the height of the season Apple Days occur regularly across the country and some of our Walled Gardens are under re-development – not just preserving but also building on Scotland’s Fruitful heritage thanks to volunteers – Amisfield (East Lothian), Granton Castle (Edinburgh).

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Johnny johnston - old Ayrshire walled garden variety. Picture: EAS

Others are “Under Construction” from scratch by young farm managers or as “new plant” Community Orchards - Projects like Knockraich Farm (Stirlingshire); Falkland Palace, CLEAR Buckhaven (Fife); Comrie (Perthshire); Craigie Farm, Beechbrae, Kirkton Park- Bathgate and Cyrenians (West Lothian); East Coast Organics , Belhaven Community Hospital Garden (East Lothian); Leith Links (Edinburgh) etc.

“Orchardeering” is also going on under the umbrella of “Landscape Partnerships” in an attempt to sustainably manage Scotland’s world renowned landscape heritage e.g. in Tayside and Lanarkshire at Elcho Castle, Scone Palace and Overton Farm.

Most “Orchardeering” ventures share the ambitious desire to make supply chains a lot shorter than Kent. The secondary benefit of eating local fruit is it spends less time, if any, in cold storage  - which often reduces healthful anti-oxidant content dramatically by 20-60 per cent - whilst apples kept at ambient room temperature, depending on variety, can even increase their anti-oxidants during storage!

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What could be more fitting during 2015, Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink than to invite the LOG (Lass O’ Gowrie) , TOG (Tower of Glamis) and BOM ( Beauty of Moray) varieties to take back their rightful place alongside Scotland’s championed soft fruit and its whisky casks. This vision is indeed achievable – when we consider for “teenage” orchards are already producing, even in a tricky climate year (like 2015) 3 -5 tonnes (3000 - 5000 Kgs) of top quality apples. With the fruits comes the opportunity for juicing - Ella Drinks Cloudy Angus Castles Juice and New Caledonian Fruitful – the juicers no longer relying on English apples to boost supplies and priding themselves on sourcing 100% Scottish.

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Catshead. Picture: EAS

Catshead. Picture: EAS

You can expect a fresh Scottish apple to retain decent levels of all 7 potent anti-oxidants, these levels not having been depleted through cold storage. Nutrients are also at their highest amounts near the core and in the skin necessitating purchase of a no or low spray apple given that it is well documented that supermarket apples are sprayed up to 80 times a year. Anti-oxidants also benefit from the best sunlight levels – often to be found at the top of the tree “an ubhal as airde” - self betterment is like reaching for the highest apple!

Rev Wilks. Picture: EAS

Rev Wilks. Picture: EAS

The variety of Scottish and Northern heritage apples on offer is nothing short of astounding . The huge range of culinary and dual purpose apples alone, deserves to be rediscovered : Grenadiers (an early fluffer) , BOM’s (Beauty of Moray), TOG (Tower of Glamis), White Melrose, Scotch Bridget, Alderman, the Wonders - Newton + Howgate, Charles Ross, Arthur Turner, the ribbed - angular Codlins (fluffers also) , Lord Derby and its mother Catshead; not forgetting Dog’ s Snout; Lord Rosebery - Lords more than Ladies abound in the naming of apples and even the vicar gets a lookin ! Rev. W Wilkes and Rev. Grieves. Offspring of the famous Edinburgh Apple James Grieve including Grenadier(culinary) , Lord Lambourne (juicing ) + and Katy/je- renowned eater and cider maker!

Rev Grieves. Picture: EAS

Rev Grieves. Picture: EAS

Others draw heritage wise on the Scottish-French monastic tradition- Arbroath Oslin, Galloway Pippin, white Melrose. And of course heritage wise most orchards stock a long list of COG (Cars of Gowrie), Clydesdale varieties. e.g. Thorle, Cambusnethan Pippins, LOG ( Lass O’ Gowrie) etc.

Supermarkets are slow to catch on and juices and apples found in this article can still only be found direct from producers or on offer in a small selection of Farms Shops / City Markets, Community Orchards, occasional stocking in Edinburgh by Ian Mellis’, Earthy or Glasgow’s Locovore but also in new outlet Eve’s Apple Shack set up to initiate seasonal “pop up” local fruit supply kiosk in 2015, ecologically placed just off Water of Leith (WoL) Cycleway , sustrans route 75 and bus routes 44/45), Juniper Green in a upcycled former police box.

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So let's hear it for the revival of Scottish apples and celebrate this wonderful fruit by supporting your local orchardeer.

Driven by a passion for all things drinks-related, Sean writes for The Scotsman extensively on the subject. He can also sometimes be found behind the bar at the world famous Potstill bar in Glasgow where he continues to enhance his whisky knowledge built up over 10 years advising customers from all over the world on the wonders of our national drink. Recently, his first book was published. Dubbed Gin Galore, it explores Scotland's best gins and the stories behind those that make them.

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