English sweet apples (Malus pumila) originated in central Asia and comprise many different varieties, although not all are edible. By a process of elimination over the years, the best varieties made their mark in England as well as in Europe. The less appealing apples gradually faded away. In addition to sweet apples, there are two other main groups of common apples, namely the European Crab (Malus sylvestris) and Siberian Crab (Malus baccata).
Blenheim Orange is in fact an apple, and a member of the illustrious Pippin family. It dates back to 1818 and takes its name from Blenheim Castle in England where it first grew out of a wall. The castle belongs to the Duke of Marlborough who approved the naming of this apple. Blenheim Orange also goes by over 60 other names. The names all identify a large, rather tart-flavored, dual purpose apple with greenish-yellow skin and a nutty flavor.
Bramley’s Seedling or Bramley is Britain’s most popular cooking apple. This large, irregularly-shaped apple can keep from early fall to the next summer, probably at least one good reason why it is the cook’s first choice. It is a green apple, but there are also crimson varieties. According to the Bramley Apples website, these apples retain their flavor and texture when cooked.
Unlike Bramley apples, the Codlin apple does not have a long shelf life, even though it is an old English cooking apple, generally best between August and October. The Codlin name dates back to the 16th century, famous for its pale green or yellow fruit that ripen in the fall. These are the apples of “Codlins and Cream” fame, an English cookery dish.
Once upon a time, there was a family of apples named Costard, which became kitchen apples. They dated back to the 13th century, and were among the earliest apples to receive a proper name. These reportedly large and delicious apples did not last beyond the 17th century though.
Cox's Orange Pippin
Cox’s Orange Pippin is a name with worldwide recognition for one of the most popular dual purpose apples. It is a brownish green apple, of medium size,with a flush of red on one side, and somewhere between sweet and acidic in flavor. Cox’s Orange Pippin dates back to the 19th century.
The Discovery apple was Britain’s first commercially-cultivated apple, from the 1970s. It is usually among the earliest apples of the season. Discovery apples come with bright red and green skins, and crisp, white fruit flesh. Although they are very appealing, these apples soften rapidly and have a very short shelf life.
“Pearmain” is the oldest English name for a group of apples, dating back to 1204. The name is of French origin. The Worcester Pearmain apple tastes a little like strawberry and is a red to orange, fall apple, among the earliest to ripen in its group. It is self-pollinating, but does best with another pollinator.