Now, I know it’s not apple season, but I couldn’t wait until August! I have found a couple of old books on the internet (thank you google books!) devoted to Pomology, in which each apple with its sometimes fabulous name, is described in a manner reminiscent of fine wines.
Listed amongst the hundreds of different varieties, such as Bigg’s Nonesuch, Poorman’s Profit and Cornish Aromatic I found the Elford Pippin. Described as an excellent dessert apple, it was a round, medium sized fruit with yellowish green skin, with markings of russet on the shaded side and red stripes on the closest to the sun side. It had a yellow, tender, crisp flesh with a fine, brisk, sugary and vinous flavour.
The Pomological Society tells us “it was raised at Elford, near Lichfield, where it is a very popular variety, and to which locality it is at present chiefly confined”. As with so many tradtional varieties, it is no more.
Not only did Elford have its own variety of apple, it also had its own rhubarb – according to gardening tomes it was one of the most valuable varieties of rhubarb and was raised by Mr. William Buck, gardener to the Honourable Fulke Greville Howard, at the Elford estate. The green-fingered Mr Buck also grew a seedling grape (described as tolerably good), from seed sown in January 1821, and exhibited on the 1st of October 1822.
In the 19th century, in some parts of Lichfield, market gardening was a thriving industry. According to J Martin, Fisherwick Park gardens regularly sent cabbage, broccoli, asparagus and fruit to Birmingham and London in the early 1800s and the County History tells us that by the mid-century, there were 68 market gardeners in Lichfield delivering their produce by horse and cart to the neighbouring Black Country markets. I’ve been told that the land around the old City Brewery, and gardens on the Walsall Rd and Christchurch Lane were used for growing produce.
|Green fields from Pipe Hill
|Though it’s not famed for its fresh produce as somewhere like Evesham is (the fruit and vegetable basket of England, as their tourist office calls it!), there is still a fair bit grown in the Lichfield area. We’ve always been to Coulter Lane Fruit Farm for PYO berries and yesterday, I picked up my first fantastic vegetable box from the Woodhouse Community Farm scheme (which was part of the old Elford estate!). A few days ago I read on the Lichfield Blog that local growers won an award for their parsnips and the fields around Leomansley are full of potatoes and other crops. I’m no evangelist about such matters but I do think we should try to support local food growers directly, so that neither they nor us are entirely dependent on supermarkets (though I do use them a fair bit). So go on, pop down to Coulter Lane & treat yourself to some strawberries, or order a box from Woodhouse farm. Every little helps….
The Apple and its Varieties by Robert Hogg, Vice-President of the British Pomological Society 1859
A Guide to the Orchard & Fruit Garden by George Lindley, John Lindley
The Social and Economic Origins of the Vale of Evesham Market Gardening Industry by J M MARTIN
An Encyclopedia of Gardening by John Claudius Loudon
‘Lichfield: Economic history’, A History of the County of Stafford: Volume 14: Lichfield (1990),