The subject of making cider from Bramley apples and how to set about pruning Bramley apple trees keeps coming up. Here’s a recent video from Hermitage Farm which bemoans the lack of current demand for Bramley apples. It’s perhaps surprising, since Bramleys are the best known and frequently the only known variety of cooking apples in the UK, but it must be the whole concept of cooking with apples which is falling into disuse heaven forbid.
Hermitage Farm‘s Bramley Apples
Here we are, five miles north of Hereford, in the middle of the organic Bramley apple harvest and the sad thing is that the bottom has dropped out of the Bramley apple market in the UK.
We are seeing Bramley apple trees being grubbed out, but what we need is a high profile celebrity chef to re-educate the British public about how to use Bramley cooking apples.
It has to be said though, that the French don’t even have a word for “cooking apples” there are many French varieties of apples and you can either eat them or cook with them. Or make cider with them of course!
Some advice about pruning Bramley Apple trees and grafting:
If you have a large Bramley apple tree, maybe up to 70 years old and it’s taking up a lot of space where you might prefer to have several other different varieties of apple trees growing, then you might want to consider grafting or top working the old Bramley tree after a severe prune but there are limitations to what can be done in such circumstances. For example it may seem a good idea to graft several different types of scions onto the same family tree or stock, but this can cause problems with differentiating growth rates of the various grafts, and also necessitate removing as many as possible of the original Bramley buds when they come through in spring, which is hardly practical on a large tree. A very large very old tree may present some challenges and you certainly
should leave ‘nurse branches’ but it is achievable, and if the tree is
lively you may be surprised how strongly the scions grow way.
Top working or grafting is not so difficult really, but the timing of the various prunes is actually quite crucial.
You need to cut the desired type of scion wood in late winter one season, then store it carefully, and do the grafting onto the old Bramley apple tree sometime between bud burst and blossom time. It’s well worth practicing first on some less valuable trees in order to make mistakes, learn, and then get the right cuts that work for your orchard.