An apple dropped on Sir Isaac Newton’s head, helping him understand the force of gravity, but Snow White came a cropper to when she bit into a poisoned one.

The humble apple sure has made its mark on culture and so popular is the fruit, it even has its own day of celebration. October 21 marks National Apple Day.

There are several orchards around Essex, with services ranging from pick-your-own to farm shops selling rustic, homemade produce.

As one of the country’s leading apple experts, also known as pomologists, and the only historian conducting a PhD in the apple and the orchard in Victorian England, at the University of Essex, Joanna Crosby is keen we all recognise National Apple Day.

She also founded Trumpington Community Orchard, in Cambridge, and will mark this year’s Apple Day with a series of academic talks and apple identification events.

“There are more than 2,000 British varieties of apples,” she says.

“Japan has lots more, so does America. You have the Pitmaston, which tastes of pineapple, the Worcester pearmain, where you can taste traces of strawberry, and even some with aniseed flavours.

“But how many do you see in your local supermarket? Maybe three or four.”

Joanna, 45, is urging fruit fans to seek out farmers’ markets and even local orchards to expand their knowledge and appreciation of apples.

“The official definition of an orchard is now three or more trees, so even if you’ve got three dwarf trees in pots on a balcony, you’ve got an orchard,” she says.

Supermarkets stock popular apple types in cheap, multi-buy bags, but our reliance on convenience is also dampening our appreciation of apples.

Often, we ignore the fact that certain varieties thrives in their particular season.

“These days we expect apples 365 days a year,” Joanna says.

“Some varieties taste better if you keep them until after winter and all the sugars make them nice and sweet.

“But you need to buy a load, store them in a dry place, away from mice, for months on end and when they are ready, the skin is slightly wrinkly. We just don’t put up with that stuff now. If it’s not the right colour right away, we probably won’t buy them.”

Apples actually originate from Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. We have the Victorians to thank for turning them into a symbol of simple, rustic pleasures and aligning it with an idea of Englishness.

Baked apples and apple crumbles emerged during this era.

Look back through literature, mythology and folklore and you will find stories littered with apples.

“The devil seems to get into a lot of fruits,” says Joanna.

“And if you believe the stories, it’s probably a good idea to be wary of a woman offering you a free apple.

“A lot of people will mention Adam and Eve, but actually the translation from the original Hebrew used one word which meant ‘golden fruit’ so it was probably a pomegranate or apricot.

“When artists in Northern Europe started displaying the text for the congregations, many of whom couldn’t read, they painted an apple, as it was easily recognisable.”

Halloween, of course, will bring apple bobbing, but there are some even more obscure traditions.

“There is another tradition where you peel the apple in one continuous spiral without it breaking,” says Joanna.

“Then you toss it behind you, with your right hand over your left shoulder, and legend has it the peel will land in the initial of your true love to be.

“Of course, that works best if your true love to be is called Simon or Stephen.”

Joanna, a keen foodie and vegetarian, hopes to pen a book about the historical role of apples, but for now wants more people to get involved in community orchards, learning about different varieties, buying them from farmers’ markets and preserving the grand traditions of the nation’s favourite fruit.


Ingredients 450g/1lb good-quality sausages, skinned

225g/8oz Bramley apples, peeled, cored and chopped

2 tbsp snipped fresh sage or 2 tsp dried sage ground black pepper flour for dusting

1x375g/13oz pack ready-rolled puff pastry

beaten egg to glaze


Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas7.

Mix the sausagemeat with the apples and sage. Season with ground black pepper.

Unroll the pastry on a surface lightly dusted with flour and then transfer onto a large baking sheet. Lay the sausage mixture down the centre of the pastry, shaping it into a fat sausage.

Use a knife to make 1 1/4cm/1/2in wide and 5cm/2in long cuts at 45 degree angle down either side of the sausage. Brush the edges with beaten egg.

Fold the two ends of the pastry over the sausage then weave the cut edges together, overlapping each side to make a plaited pattern.

Brush with more egg and bake for 25 mins or until golden and crisp.

Cool for 5 mins on a baking sheet before transferring to a serving plate.

Serve warm or cold and cut into slices.