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  • From: "Brungardt, Sam" <>
  • To: "North American Fruit Explorers" <>
  • Subject: [NAFEX] Welsh gardeners keen to bite into one of the world's rarest apples
  • Date: Fri, 28 Dec 2007 10:00:50 -0600

Title: Message

I thought some of you would find this story, from a Welsh newspaper, of interest (especially about a U.S. nursery having ordered budwood of the Bardsey apple.  See also for more info about this apple. -- Sam Brungardt, St. Paul, Minn.

Welsh gardeners keen to bite into one of the world’s rarest apples

ONE of the world’s rarest trees has become a must-have for green-fingered Welsh patriots.

Nearly 10 years ago a birdwatcher noticed an apple tree growing beside a house on Bardsey, off the Lln Peninsula, and alerted Welsh orchard expert Ian Sturrock.

One of the world’s leading authorities on apple species, based in Kent, later declared it the rarest apple tree in the world.

Now Mr Sturrock – who specialises in growing native Welsh fruit trees by grafting small pieces of them onto rootstock – cannot keep up with demand for Bardsey apple saplings.

Having sent them across Britain and overseas, he is now sending wood from a Bardsey tree to a nursery in the US – for grafting on the other side of the pond.

Americans have been asking for the trees, but strict US import rules prevent saplings being sent there from Wales.

In Wales, the fashion for home-grown organic foods among the professional classes has led to hundreds of Bardsey apple trees being snapped up.

“It has become quite a cultural thing,” said Mr Sturrock.

“I took some to a shop in Usk in November. They sold out immediately.

“Lots of doctors have bought Bardsey trees. That’s a funny one – an apple a day and all that business. They’re educated and middle-class. They’re aware of the benefits of fruit. They’ve got lots of money, which means they’ve got lots of land.

“Fashion changes. Fifty years ago, it would be the poor working-class people that would grow their own food. Now it’s the middle and upper classes who do that.

“The poor old working class buy ready-made food from supermarkets.

“The nearest they get to an apple is a McDonald’s apple pie.”

Since starting to sell young Bardsey apple trees seven years ago, he has sold 3,000. But this year the trees could be in short supply.

“We’ve sold out,” said Mr Sturrock, whose nursery is near Bangor. “Some of my trees that I was going to sell in two years’ time I’ve sold already. ”

He sold 150 of the trees to entrepreneurs in Gwynedd, who plan to make a unique Welsh cider from Bardsey apples, once the trees produce sufficient fruit.

He said the apple appealed strongly to people who live on other islands, including the Scilly Isles, the Inner and Outer Hebrides, Sicily and various Greek islands. Having survived for decades on windswept Ynys Enlli, as Bardsey is known in Welsh, it should be hardy enough for most other European islands.

Others have been sent to customers in France, Italy, Austria, Germany and Sweden.

“Christian people want it because it’s got the Bardsey connection,” said Mr Sturrock.

Welsh folklore names Ynys Enlli as the burial place of 20,000 saints. “Pagan people like it because of the original Bardsey connection. Holidaymakers who have stayed on Bardsey are keen to have one.”

Usually gardeners buy fruit and vegetables because they know and like the taste of the produce. In this case, however, few of the buyers have ever tasted the fruit, which is said to have a lemon scent.

Mr Sturrock said some people were delighted to be pioneers with a species whose care and best planting position are not described in any gardening books.

“They’re interested in experimenting. There’s a bulletin board on the Bardsey apple tree website for people to share their ideas and experiences.”

Retired electricity-board supervisor Eddie Darbyshire of Pentraeth, Anglesey, gave his wife Mona a Bardsey tree for her birthday four years ago.

She had previously won prizes for her apples.

“The first two years I didn’t let any blossom come on,” said Mrs Darbyshire.

“The third year we had a couple of apples. This year we had 30 apples. It was wonderful.

“They were just my type of apple – not too sweet. They’re tangy when you bite into them.”

But are gardeners focusing too much attention on this one variety, when several other native Welsh species have been resurrected?

“A lot of people who start with a Bardsey apple tree then become interested in these other Welsh varieties,” said Mr Sturrock.

“But a lot of people want to buy more than one Bardsey apple tree for their garden.

“I say it’s much better to have one of them and something like the Cox Cymraeg, which fruits later in the season, or the Afal Nant Gwrtheyrn, which I discovered by the Welsh-language centre.”

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