There are thousands of varieties of apples and pears to choose so unless you have a large estate and a very sturdy spade I suggest you do some preliminary whittling from the wealth of possibilities.
As with any food you grow, think firstly of what you want to do with your harvest: are you hoping to eat most raw? will you want some to cook? make cider or more than one of those? Some apple and pear varieties are good for eating and cooking, or eating and making cider, so you may want to hedge your bets by choosing one of these, especially if you have room for just one or two trees.
Bear in mind that cooking apples tend to be larger and tarter than dessert apples, cider apples are often too harsh to be palatable raw and dual purpose varieties tend be sharp early in the season, becoming sweeter if left on the tree a little longer. Similarly, pear varieties for making perry are not good to eat.
If you have room for only a single tree, you’ll need a self-fertile variety, otherwise you must chose varieties with flowering periods that at least partially coincide. All apple and pear varieties are assigned a letter of the alphabet that indicates its flowering (or pollination) group – for pollination compatibility you must choose varieties with the same letter or one either side – ie an apple of Flowering Group B may be pollinated by another variety from Flowering groups A, B or C.
The best known self-fertile variety is Cox’s Orange Pippin. Self fertile apples will produce reasonably well, but do better with a pollinating partner.
A good supplier will be happy to advise you about pollination compatibility, if you are unsure, as well as any local varieties that should thrive in your conditions.
These are my five favourite apples and pears â€“ mind you, I could easily change my mind next week…
- ‘Orleans Reinette’ An eater that also keeps its shape when cooked – has a rich, nutty flavour.
- ‘Beauty of Bath’ A very early variety, with a delicious, sharp flavour and highly aromatic. Earlies don’t store well, so eat them straight off the tree.
- ‘Ashmead’s Kernel’ Delicious – lemon/pear sherbet flavour, juicy and crisp. Great to eat, cook or make cider with. And particularly lovely blossom.
- ‘Veitches Perfection’. A fabulous old all-rounder that’s as good for cooking as it is for eating. Great balance of sweet/sharp and the flavour improves once picked.
- ‘Louise Bonne of Jersey’ Wonderfully aromatic pears ready in October
- ‘Beurre Hardy’ A white/pale pink-fleshed pear, aromatic, sweet, and juicy. Makes a vigorous, upright tree. Hardier than many.
- ‘Fondante d’Automne’ Delicious, lightly russetted fruit in September/October. Also has staggeringly lovely Autumn foliage
- ‘Glou Morceau’ A lovely late pear, ready for New Year.
Mark will happily sell you any of these varieties â€“ and many more from under the counter of his handsome shop.