Grower swears by superior taste of heirloom apples

Progress check. . . Crosbie Grieve inspects the blossoms of Alexander one of the 100-year-old eating apple trees on his property near Waikaia. PHOTO: SANDY EGGLESTON

There are some interesting apples produced from the trees planted in his orchard, Crosbie Grieve says.
About 20 varieties were planted on the property more than 100 years ago.
Most appeared to be cooking apples but there were several eating apples, one of which was probably a variety called Alexander.
Some were large and cooked down to a ‘‘mush’’ and ‘‘others are tiny.
‘‘One variety of apple has red streaks all through the flesh inside it.’’
The names of the other varieties of apples are not known.
Once Mr Grieve spoke to a heritage fruit tree specialist from England and showed him a selection of the apples.
The specialist said while it would take time to identify the varieties he believed many would no longer be found in Europe but would still be growing in the colonies like Australia and New Zealand where the settlers planted them.
Throughout the years Mr Grieve and his late wife Candace perfected making apple cider from the apples.
‘‘We make apple cider, no added sugar.
‘‘We found pure apple juice depending on the year will ferment out to about 5% [alcohol content].’’
Sometimes they added in berry fruit to the mix.
He also made apple cider vinegar and the remaining crop was eaten fresh, dried or frozen.
The apples had a superior taste to the ones bought at the supermarket, he said.
‘‘You go and buy an apple from the supermarket and it’s got no flavour.’’
All the trees had been numbered and their fruit photographed and matched to the tree.
Grafts of the trees had been taken and had been planted which was fortunate as some of the trees had died since.
He did not spray the trees and did not prune the older trees now.
The only fertiliser that was added to the ground in the orchard was provided by seven sheep.
‘‘They’ve been contracted to keep the grass down.
‘‘In return I promise not to eat them.’’
His definition of a happy sheep was one that was eating an apple.
‘‘The sheep hang around under the trees waiting for an apple.
‘‘They get an apple in their mouth, the juice is running down, they’ve got their head back and their eyes closed munching away — they are just in heaven.’’
He also used the wool to mulch the trees.
He preferred to take an organic approach to growing produce on the property and the only part of the property he sprayed with a commercial spray was the drive.
If he sprayed in the garden he used cider vinegar which did not kill the roots but burned off the weed foliage.