Armagh Bramley Apples
The Armagh Bramley Apple is a large green fresh culinary apple. It has a reddish flush and its flesh is white with a tinge of green. The apples are large in size ranging between 60-120 mm in diameter. They are rounded with less uniformity of shape than other Bramley Apples, flat sided, with a ribbed apex, and large eye which is part opened. They are solid green colour with reddish blush, the sepals are brown and downy and the Stalk is short and thick. Inside, the flesh is white with a tinge of green and its texture is firm and moist.
Specific steps in production that must take place in the identified geographical area:
The apples must be grown in the designated area. Armagh Bramley Apples are grown in the highly fertile, silt-loam or clay-loam soils of the region. In all orchards, the field boundary is maintained as a substantial hedgerow and windbreak of mixed woody plant species, this provides protection from the chill northerly or north-easterly winds which arise during some spring periods. Regardless of tree age or size, all summer and winter pruning is carried out manually. The management of these trees for consistent crop yield and quality requires those skills gained from many years’ experience in shaping the frame and canopy through winter and Armagh growers pride themselves on observing Good Agricultural Practice in the production of Armagh Bramley apples. Pollination by honeybees is commonly employed during the blossom period and all spray applications are undertaken with due diligence to the welfare of these and other beneficial insects, as well as careful regard to the wider environment.
Widespread use is made of foliar nutrition in Armagh Bramley orchards; both ‘straight’ (single) nutrients and seaweed-derived fertiliser blends are incorporated into the regular spray programme. Apples are harvested by hand between early September and late October. Time of picking is dependent on season, market, fruit maturity and tree age and rootstock type. Growers often concur on the start date for picking relevant to the size of the apples and their rate of growth during the late summer/early autumn. Most apples are harvested once they have achieved a minimum average diameter of 75 mm, but before they have matured beyond the stage where > 20 % of the stored carbohydrate has been converted from starch to sugar.
As well as the orchards being pruned manually, all fruit is picked and graded by hand. Pickers are trained in handling fruit to avoid skin marking and flesh damage, which is particularly critical for this variety, since a significant proportion of the crop is stored in controlled atmosphere conditions for supply to market throughout the year.
Concise definition of the geographical area:
Armagh Bramley Apples are grown in the following traditional apple growing parishes in the Archdiocese of Armagh, which covers the counties of Armagh and Tyrone and part of county Londonderry:
Ballygawley, Beragh, Bessbrook, Cloghogue, Clonoe, Coagh, Coalisland, Cookstown, Crossmaglen, Cullyhanna, Donaghmore, Dromintree, Dungannon, Eglish, Keady, Derrynose & Madden, Kildress, Killcluney, Killeeshill, Kilmore, Lissan, Loughgall, Magherafelt, Middletown, Middle Killeavy, Moneymore, Moy, Mullaghbawn, Newbridge, Pomeroy, Portadown, Tandragee, Termonmaguirc, Whitecross.
Link with the geographical area:
The defined area is subject to climatic influences including an annual rainfall of up to 80 inches derived from the Atlantic weather system, and an average temperature of 3 °C (winter) to 18 °C (summer) arising from the influence of the Gulf Stream. This, combined with the soil quality in the defined area, which is rich, fertile and particularly high in calcium, contributes to the specificity of the area.
Due to the northerly location, there is less light than other Bramley growing areas and so photosynthesis dictates a lower tree density, allowing for lateral growth. The colder climate than other Bramley growing areas means that there is less uniformity of growth in the Armagh Bramley Apple and also means that there is less insect pressure and so insecticides require application once per season. This reduced insecticide application is reflected in low residue levels. The lower temperatures also mean that that there is a longer growing season. The designated area is characterised by drumlin hills with numerous small rivers. The rich soil and higher precipitation also means that there is no requirement for artificial irrigation.
The designated area’s climate and soil have a direct influence on the reputation of the product. The longer growing season arising from the lower temperatures characteristic of the area results in larger fruit with less uniformity of shape, a high acid quality suitable for a culinary apple and a stronger distinctive flavour.
Armagh Bramley Apples have a reputation of holding their flavour and being firmer in texture than other Bramley Apples which is maintained when cooked. This also contributes to its reputation of better keeping quality and as such has longer storability characteristics (12-13 months) than Bramleys from other regions.
Armagh Bramley Apples also differ from other Bramley Apples in that they are green with an occasional reddish flush, but do not develop defined stripes. In addition the Armagh Bramley Apple has a less rounded shape than others due to the cooler climate and the resulting irregular growth patterns. The Apples have a stronger, pronounced flavour.
The Bramley apple was first brought to Armagh in 1884, when 60 Bramley seedlings were introduced them to Northern Ireland. By 1921, 7 000 acres had been planted and Bramley had become the principal variety grown in Armagh. Processing of the apple started in 1903 and Northern Ireland’s leading processors are still based in County Armagh, near their main supply, the orchards of the county.
The Bramley apple has a unique texture and flavour that assures its position as the king of culinary apples. It retains its strong, tangy flavour throughout the cooking process. The Bramley apple is the only apple in the world with these properties. The Armagh Bramley Apple has a reputation for being firmer in texture, which means that they can be stored for longer and hold their texture for longer when cooking.
The colder climate also accounts for the less rounded shape than other Bramleys. The cooler weather leads to uneven pollination across the ovaries of individual fruit. The ovaries that are fertilised first will swell and develop before the others, which means that the Armagh Bramley Apples develop a characteristic non-round shape.
The Armagh Bramley apple orchards are unusual in their northerly location and as a result of the climate the apples produced are fewer in number but richer in flavour. The cost of producing Bramley, as a result, is high. The unique growing conditions in Armagh result in a firmer, more dense fruit than would be grown elsewhere. Aided by a rich, fertile soil that is high in calcium and essential nutrients with a pure and abundant water supply.
Armagh is known throughout Ireland as the Orchard County, with apples having grown in the county for 3,000 years. St Patrick is said to have planted an apple tree at Ceangoba, an ancient settlement east of Armagh City. The reputation of Armagh as the Orchard County is solely due to the Armagh Bramley Apple. 99 % of all top fruit grown in Northern Ireland is Bramley Apple, and 95 % of all top fruit grown in Northern Ireland is in Armagh. Armagh is referred to as the Orchard County throughout the culture and customs of the area, from traditional folk songs to local sporting teams.
The term ‘Orchard’ is synonymous with Armagh only as a result of the Armagh Bramley Apple, yet many companies in the designated area unrelated to the Bramley, use the name ‘Orchard’ due to the instant recognition that it gives to the area due to the importance of the Armagh Bramley Apple.
Local restaurants actively promote dishes made from the local Armagh apples, such as Armagh Bramley apple pie, Armagh Bramley Apple Sorbet and Armagh Bramley Apple Crumble. Armagh Bramley Recipe competitions are held with recipes for starters (e.g. Bramley Apple Soup or Ulster Delight), main courses (e.g. Pork with Bramley Apple Stuffing) and desserts (e.g. Armagh Bramley Apple Cake, Bramley Toffee Pudding, Armagh East Coast Soufflé); there is even a local potter who has a Bramley Apple Range, inspired by the nearby orchards.
The importance of the Armagh Bramley Apple to the region is reflected not only in the fact that up to 1,500 local people are employed in the industry, but also that traditional events still take place, such as Apple Week, and the Apple festival in October. The last Sunday in May is designated Apple Blossom Sunday, as the local orchards are a sea of pink and white flowers. Tourists can take tours of the orchards, complete with Armagh Bramley apple pies, washed down with Armagh cider at the region’s Apple Blossom Fair.
Reference: The European Commission