This parent tree was discovered in a hedgerow on the outskirts of Kirkbymoorside. The tree appears to be well over 100 years old but has been growing wild and is in a poor state now. The hedgerow would have been on the route between an old farm orchard and cottages so it is probable that a Victorian farm worker picked an apple from the orchard to eat on his way home then threw the core into the hedge. One of the pips from this discarded core grew into the tree we see today. Any apple tree which grows from a pip is unique because apples do not grow true from seeds, therefore we have named our unique tree ‘The Kirkby Pippin’
Last summer we were offered the opportunity to have DNA testing done to find out a little bit more about our ‘Kirkby Pippin’ apple and now, after a very long wait, the results are back
First a short explanation about the science. DNA testing of apples is still in its infancy with scientists trying to find the best way of positively identifying specific varieties. To help with this, genetic testing was carried out on all the apple trees in the national collection at Brogdale (over 2000 named varieties) to form a database of these known varieties. Researchers discovered that just a small number of specific sections from apple tree DNA could then be used to find matches to these reference varieties. The test that has been developed compares 12 specific short sections of the DNA from an apple tree against those from the national collection to look for a match. Even if a match is found it may simply mean that the tree being tested shares DNA from a common parent tree. It is only when there is a match both with the DNA and with the morphological characteristics (size, shape, colour, growing habit etc) that a positive identification can be made
So – to the long awaited results for our very own Kirkby Pippin
It turns out that the Kirkby Pippin shares some of its DNA with a very old Yorkshire variety called ‘Yorkshire Cockpit’. This was first described in the catalogues in 1831 but its origins are a mystery. It was widely grown, and highly regarded, in Victorian times but is now rarely found. There are various descriptions of the apple from ‘sharp culinary’ to ‘good all round apple suitable for cooking or eating as a dessert apple’ but interestingly there are also references to it being used as a cooking apple in the north but a dessert apple when grown further south. It should not be confused with the more widely grown ‘Cockpit Improved’ which is usually described and sold as an improved version of the original Yorkshire Cockpit but DNA testing has shown that they are not related.
Our Kirkby Pippin is a well flavoured eating apple when grown in good conditions. If, however, the weather has been less than favourable the sugars don’t develop as fully and it is more suited to use as a cooking apple, so I would call it a dual purpose apple. Now that we know one of its likely parents there is more detective work to be done with the Kirkbymoorside History Group archive to see what else we can discover about ‘our apple’