As harvest closes at Thatchers Cider, amongst the apples that have been collected are those from a special “100 Tree Trial”, that has seen 10,000 new trees of different apple varieties planted in Somerset.
So called because the trees are planted in rows of 100, Chris Muntz-Torres, orchard manager at Sandford-based Thatchers explains, “These are varieties that have either done well in our Exhibition Orchard, or have a reputation for producing excellent cider. This is the first time that the trees have been grown in the hedgerow style that Thatchers has developed, where the trees are trained along wires and shaped to allow more sunlight to reach the growing fruit. We’re looking forward to seeing how these varieties perform under new conditions and how the fruit presses into cider.”
Being the first year of planting, the crop of apples on these new trees is at early stages, but they’ll still be producing sufficient fruit for the cidermakers at Myrtle Farm to produce a small amount of cider from them this year. Normally an apple tree needs around seven years for it to start cropping fully.
The apples that are being trialled include: Bloody Turk (a dark red skinned bittersweet apple, originally from Herefordshire), Broxwood Foxwhelp (a medium bittersharp apple dating back to the 1920s, producing a full bodied juice), Muscadet de Dieppe (a small bittersweet fruit with an orange red skin), and Cider Lady’s Finger (a mild, sharp apple, originating in South West of England).
Thatchers Exhibition orchard in Sandford is already home to 458 varieties of apples, being preserved for future generations. The trees in the Exhibition Orchard originated in the former Long Ashton Research Station in Bristol, which was dedicated to cider making research. John Thatcher has made it his mission to preserve these varieties, including apples such as Bloody Ploughman and Fair Maid of Taunton. All 458 varieties have been blended into Thatchers Cider Barn 458 cider.