Steyning Community Orchard: The story of ‘Steyning Scarlet’ & 'Steyning Late Greening'Steyning Community Orchard: The story of ‘Steyning Scarlet’ & 'Steyning Late Greening'
Steyning now has its own Apple Varieties:
Identifying apple varieties can be notoriously difficult, even for the experts. But with recent developments in DNA analysis, it is now possible to do this with almost 100% accuracy.
East Malling Research has completed the DNA analysis of all 2,200 apple varieties growing at the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale in Kent. For a modest fee, they can now provide a DNA fingerprint of samples sent in to them, and match them against their apple DNA database. If it matches a tree in the National Collection, then this is identified. If it is not in the Collection, then your apple is an unknown variety.
The Community Orchard has found a number of interesting apples in the district that have proved difficult to identify, and so we submitted these for testing last summer.
One was from the garden of an old house in Steyning High Street. It was identified as Cockle Pippin, an old apple dating from 1800 that used to be widely grown in Sussex and Surrey. This is the first tree of this variety that we know of in Steyning.
Two of the others we had tested came back as new, unknown varieties:
One is an old apple tree in our Orchard on the Memorial Playing Field. It has smallish yellow sharp apples (good for juice/cider), and flowers later than any other variety that we know of, thus avoiding very late frosts. This characteristic could have national importance in any future apple breeding programmes, so is worth preserving for this reason alone.
The other tree is growing alongside the old Steyning railway line, probably growing from the seeds in a discarded apple core thrown from a railway carriage. The apples are a good size, attractively coloured, crunchy and juicy with white flesh, and have a good flavour.
It is very rare for a tree growing from a discarded core to have useful apples on it. They mostly produce sour crab apples.
But the exciting part is that apples that have been DNA-tested as unique, can now be considered for addition onto a National Register of Local Cultivars (RLC). This will formally recognise local varieties that may have been known for years, but never added to the national collection, as well as allowing groups such as ours to have new local varieties recognised. This Register will sit alongside the National Fruit Catalogue managed by DEFRA/Brogdale. So we submitted both of our new apples to be added to this Register, and attended the adjudication meeting where we put the case for adding our 2 Steyning varieties. 80 new varieties were submitted and 68 of these accepted. We were delighted that both of ours were among those accepted. We were also able to name these two new varieties the first 'Steyning Late Greening' and the second 'Steyning Scarlet'
At present they both exist as single trees, so we will be doing lots of grafting this winter to add to their numbers.
We hope that we can get the Steyning Scarlet widely planted around the district in the coming years, and to be able to sell these trees at our future events.
If you would like to register your interest in having a Steyning Scarlet of your own, please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will provide you with more details.
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