The rows and rows of blooming apple, pear, plum and cherry trees at Brogdale Farm represent the largest collection of fruit cultivars on any one site in the world. With over 2000 apples, 500 pears, 300 cherries, 300 plums, 150 gooseberries, 200 red, white and black currants and smaller collections of nuts, medlars, quinces and vine, the Brogdale’s collection represents the UK’s contribution to global conservation and forms a vital gene bank for the future.
Brogdale is also important in other ways, with its Versailles Potager du Roi, Renaissance garden, Edwardian artistic garden and Wild Fruit garden it provides a record of how fruit trees have been central to the design of the pleasure garden and regional landscaping throughout history. For example, the collection includes the Tudor pear and the Newtown Pippin apple of New York, which launched the international fruit trade, as well as the most modern varieties of cherry, which have transformed the fortunes of Kent’s orchards in recent years.
The farm has a whole calendar of events, including the Cherry Festival in July (7-8th) and Plum Day on August 12th, and this year to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee and the planting of Brogdale’s orchards in 1952, the events are all inspired by the 1950s, the era appropriately epitomised by the Apple Pie.
This weekend though they’re running one of their famous courses on Artisan Cider Making with Kent’s award-winning cider producer Simon Reed from ‘Rough Old Wife Cider’. It’s a beginners course, and you’re encouraged to bring along your own apples and pears for pressing. You’ll also learn something of the history of British Cider and Perry and the fundamentals of setting up your own cider press. Afterwards you can take a tour of the blossoming orchards with a knowledgeable guide. There really isn’t a better time to see them.
If you can’t get to Brogdale this weekend, why not get into the spirit of things and buy a bag of crisp Cox’s Orange Pippins, and whip up Kay’s easy Tarte Tatin. Cox’s were first cultivated by Buckinghamshire brewer and horticulturalist Richard Cox in the early 1800s and have a sprightly crisp flavour with hints of cherry and anise. They are wonderfully succulent and are often blended in cider production, although they do make a delicious apple tart.