Here’s a wild guess – if you’ve got your hand up because you love a Bramley, you’re either from the UK, or have close links to someone from the UK. Are we right?
Or maybe, you’re from somewhere else altogether, and you’ve learnt to love Bramleys for their own sake. Either way, Bramley apples have a large – and very dedicated – following!
Properly called a Bramley’s Seedling, they are definitely one of the most popular apples with Brits – they just go mad for them! It’s the variety we get the most inquiries about, presumably because they’re been a relatively common apple in England for a very long time. (And yes, we do grow them, but if you want to buy the fruit, you need to get your order in very early, because every single apple is usually pre-ordered before we even pick them!)
But what makes the Bramley so special?
To Aussies like us, brought up thinking that Granny Smith was the ultimate cooking apple, it was hard to see what all the fuss is about.
But we have to admit, now that we’ve grown them for about 8 years, and have got into the habit of using them as a cooker, we can definitely see the attraction.
Bramleys have a most romantic history. The mother of all Bramley trees was planted as a seed by a woman called Mary Ann Brailsford in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, at the start of the nineteenth century – which gives these apples a fairly impressive pedigree, and the right to be called a ‘heritage’ apple (though they still don’t compete with Snow apples, which are known to have originated in France in the 1600’s).
Anyway, the name Bramley came from the man that inherited that first tree, which according to The Apple Source Book, is still alive today, and despite having fallen over numerous times in the last 200 years, can still pick up to a ton of fruit each year!
Due to the magic of grafting, all the Bramley trees in the world come from this original tree (or a graft from a graft from a graft…but that’s a story for another time. If you want to know more about grafting, have a look at our “Grow Your Own Fruit Trees” workshop).
Bramleys are as easy to grow as any other apple, one of their main features being that they are a triploid, which means they need to planted with two pollinators.
Triploid varieties produce sterile pollen, which won’t pollinate other varieties. Triploids are therefore usually planted with two other varieties that flower at the same time, which then fertilise each other as well as the triploid.
Other triploid varieties include Mutsu, Gravenstein, Blenheim Orange, Jonagold, Ribston Pippin, Newtown Pippin, Roxbury Russet and Winesap.
Despite this disadvantage, triploids have several advantages over diploid (the more common type of apple), including producing large vigorous trees, large fruit, having good natural disease resistance, and being quite resilient in difficult conditions.
That’s why Bramley apples have adapted so well to Australian conditions (at least they have at our place!)
Because we’re certified organic and don’t use any pesticides or chemicals, we try to plant varieties that have higher natural resistance to pests and diseases, and the Bramley grows a strong healthy tree that’s quite resistant to black spot (apple scab).
If you’re planning to plant a Bramley, other varieties that flower at about the same time (and can therefore be used as a pollinator) include Gravenstein, Gala, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Golden Delicious, Fuji and Jonathon.
The Bramley is a large irregular shaped apple. They start out sort of reddish, as you can see in the photo below.
You need to thin your crop every year (which means taking some of the fruit off when it’s tiny), because Bramleys really grow quite huge, and need a lot of room to grow. If you leave them to grow in bunches they can push each other off the branch, or end up smaller than they would otherwise. Pests also love to hide in the spaces between bunches of apples, so it’s much better to leave them hanging singly. We normally do our apple thinning in November, and try to get it all finished by the middle of December.
When ripe, Bramleys have a greenish yellow skin with a red flush and stripes. The flesh is firm and yellowish, and is very acid, one of the characteristics that makes it prized as a cooking apple. The other is the fact that when cooked, Bramleys collapse into a mush of delicious apple-ness, making them perfect for fluffy apple pies.
Like all fruit trees, it’s a good idea to protect the crop from the birds and any other predators that might like to have a munch on them (for us that’s kangaroos, but luckily they are easily deterred by nets). If you’re going to net your Bramley tree, put the nets on just after thinning, and leave them in place until you pick.
Though Bramleys are famous for being a very tart apple, they will keep getting sweeter if you leave them on the tree after they’re ripe. They’ll gradually go a bit more yellow, and get a redder stripe on the skin, and can even end up ripe enough to eat raw – as long as you like your eating apples pretty sharp!
At this time of year, we get a lot of inquiries about whether we sell Bramley trees. Yes you can buy fruit trees from us each year, but unfortunately there are no Bramley trees on the list this year. Sorry.
But the good news is we’re just about to start growing some in our tree nursery, so we’ll have them for sale…not next winter, it takes longer than that to grow them from scratch, but the winter after, definitely (well, as definite as anything ever is in farming!).
The easiest way to find out when we’ll have Bramley trees for sale is to subscribe to our free newsletter, and then you’ll find out when they’re ready – easy!