Now in their third year, the apples are starting to produce fruit – well some are. It was a cold April when they were in bloom so this is not a good year to assess them. Some set no fruit at all. What is becoming clear is that those with red skins are prone to crow damage and those pecks then become caverns when the wasps move in and brown rot spreads across the fruit if the wasps don’t notice. ‘Spartan’ is going to be a washout – all the apples were destroyed weeks ago.
But the star this year has been ‘Norfolk Royal’ – or at least that is what I thought I had. Now that it has produced fruit it is obvious that it is ‘Norfolk Royal Russet’. The true ‘Norfolk Royal’ is a red-skinned eater raised early in the 20th century but the russet sport was found in Burnham Overy Staithe in Norfolk in 1983. It has lost much of the red skin and is covered in rough, russeting. The apples should have areas of red but few of mine did.
The apples are quite large and rather flat and it is a spur bearer. Picking month is said to be October but all but two are eaten now and they are really good. Like all russets the flesh is a little dry but the flavour is rich with hints of nuttiness and pear. It tastes as though it is low in acid and it is crisp but rather soft (not woolly) and very sweet. It tastes complex and really good. In addition, unlike many of the others, there is no sigh of scab or other problems so I think this is going to be a winner and perfect for a garden prone to late spring frosts and wind!