World Apple Day is today (Wednesday, 21 October). In honour of that and because it’s the time of year to be thinking about planting apple trees, in this post I’m looking at The Heritage Apples of Ireland.
The connection to Co Clare is that the author, Michael Hennerty, not only worked closely with Irish Seed Savers Association (ISSA) in Scarriff, but also generously donated the copyright of the book and all proceeds from it to the organisation. Sadly, Professor Hennerty died shortly after the book was published.
This is a gorgeously designed and produced hardback book. It includes a brief history of the apple in Ireland (crab apple pips found in Co Limerick have been carbon dated to 3938-3378 BC) and potted biographies of the people who have been key in the rediscovery and conservation of heritage varieties, including Anita and Tommy Hayes who founded the ISSA.
There is fascinating information on how types of apple are described, from their shape to their uses, and these “descriptors” are used as headings in the main part of the book: information on sixty-eight heritage apples of Ireland.
Each apple has a page devoted to it, with historical notes, visual description, what it is used for, when it flowers, when it is harvested, publications for further reading, and so on. There are, of course, pictures of the apples, too, with each one photographed on its own from four angles – how helpful is that! The design of the pages and the clarity of the photography are superb.
There are two apples from Clare:
– the Ballyvaughan Seedling (a round cooking apple)
– the Yellow Clare (an “oblong” dessert apple).
Heritage apple trees are available to purchase from the ISSA, and they will also provide information on when and how to plant them. The ISSA in Scarriff is open to visitors Tuesday–Saturday all year round – they have a shop and café, and you can also order plants online.