Oxford academic lectures on 10,000-year history of apple at celebrated event

A large audience from the fruit growing fraternity gathered to hear Dr Barrie Juniper, emeritus reader at the University of Oxford, give this year's Amos Memorial Lecture at East Malling Research entitled The Origin of the Apple -- including a celebration of Bramley.

His research has traced the evolution of Malus domestica over 10,000 years from the wild Malus sieversii growing on the northern slopes of the Tian Shan range, roughly on the border of what is now Kazakhstan and Xinjiang province in China.

It appears we are indebted to brown bears selecting the largest, sweetest and juiciest fruits over thousands of years. They ate these selected fruits and passed seeds in their ordure.

Four to six thousand years ago man took a hand and helped the migration to Europe. Grafting trees from those selected clones was probably discovered in Mesopotamia almost 3,000 year ago. The Romans then brought the idea of orchards to the UK 1,000 years later. Scion wood was kept fresh at that time by sticking the bases into hard, long-keeping fruits.

While apples were stewed in pots, it was the invention of coal-burning ranges with ovens in the mid 19th century that saw a lot more culinary apples being introduced.

The Great Exhibition of 1851 saw double ovens arrive and with them the more sophisticated cooking of apple tarts, cakes and flans using Bramley's Seedling.

The variety was joined by Lane's Prince Albert (1867), Annie Elizabeth (1868) - which will keep until June in barn storage, Peasgood Nonsuch (1872), Bismark (1879), Early Victoria (1899), Edward VII (1908) and Rev W Wilks (1908).

The annual public lecture, established in 1947, is a memorial to Jess Amos, who was associated with the founding and subsequent development of East Malling Research Station and particularly with early research on fruit tree rootstocks.


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