We have supported Wade Muggleton of the Worcestershire Orchards Network to publish two volumes of the Worcestershire Pomona, one detailing the range of apples and orchards in the county and the other detailing the county’s famous Black Pear.
The Apples and Orchards of Worcestershire by Wade Muggleton (2017)
ISBN: 978-1912078646 (96pp)
‘Worcestershire was once renowned for its orchards and fruit growing, as a result a number of apple varieties originated here in the county. Never before have they all been recorded and listed together in one place. thi sbook attempts to remedy that. Along with stories and anecdotes that all go together to make Worcestershire and the apple synonymous with each other.’
An orchard anecdote from The Apples and Orchards of Worcestershire
Scotch Bridget – an apple, a barmaid and a Tenbury Tale
The apple Scotch Bridget, according to most references, originates from the Scottish borders in about 1851. Yet there persists in the Teme Valley a rather different story, claiming it originated in Tenbury Wells.
It was believed in the 1920s and 30s that the variety had originated in the 19th century from a seedling in the garden of the Swan Hotel in Tenbury Wells and that it had been named after a Scottish barmaid by the name of Bridget who had worked there at the time. Precisely when Scotch Bridget was discovered and named is unclear. Robert Hogg lists it in his book of 1851, British Pomology, Volume 1: The Apple, and it was extensively grown in Worcestershire in the early 1900s .
David Spilsbury, fruit-grower of Eastham, claims his father always believed it to be a Teme Valley apple until he visited Lancashire in the 1950s and found orchards of it growing near Blackpool and was truly surprised at finding it in cultivation in another county. There are also accounts of it being grown in France and Germany but again tying up the dates in sequence seems difficult. Its spread into other counties and even countries is easily possible, as once established a named and reputable variety would quickly spread through the nursery trade, but who had it first and where it actually originated is unclear.
It is interesting none the less how this type of story springs up. The truth may never be known but it’s rather appealing that a girl from Scotland, a long way from home, could have had an apple named in her honour by the folk of Tenbury Wells. Alternatively it may have been an already established variety, possibly from Scotland, when a comment in a Tenbury pub to a girl called Bridget to the effect of ‘did they call this apple after you?’ was misheard and perpetuated as a local story…who knows?
The Worcester Black Pear by Wade Muggleton (2018)
ISBN: 978-1912078974 (48pp)
It is hard to escape the Worcester Black Pear if you live and work in the county – it appears everywhere from the county coat of arms to the Cricket Club badge. This book documents the history, propagation and use of the Black Pear and includes a range of tasty recipes from Clare Tibbits.
How to cook a Black Pear from The Worcester Black Pear
Worcester Black Pears are a variety of warden pear, a fruit which dates back to the 13th Century. Wardens were considered a baking pear of great repute and were for centuries a favourite for inclusion in pies and pastries, described in every early cookery book. In early literature the warden was considered a distinct type of fruit and lists of fruit varieties included both pears and wardens. Warden pears in syrup were served in the same course as venison, quail, sturgeon, fieldfare and other high quality dishes. Recipes from a 1450 cookery book include meat and fish cooked with pears, leeks, small onions or garlic sauce.
Hot baked wardens:
6 large firm black pears
½ – ¾ pint / 300 – 450ml red wine
1oz / 28g brown sugar
Pinch of ground cinnamon, ginger and saffron
Peel the pears and place in an oven proof dish. Mix the red wine with the brown sugar and spices and pour over the pears. Bake in the oven at 180 C / 350 F / Gas Mark 4 until tender (this can be up to 2 hours in the case of black pears).