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Ashmead's Kernel

Origin and History

Ashmead’s Kernel is one of our oldest apple varieties, so old it was taken to America by the Pilgrim Fathers and can still be found on both sides of the Atlantic. It was later named after a Dr Ashmead who grew it in his Clarence Street, Gloucester garden in 1700 and propagated for sale by a local nurseryman called Wheeler in 1766. The name 'kernel' suggests it was discovered as a chance seedling rather than deliberately bred. Despite its unique pear-drop flavour and 'exquisite homeliness' Ashmead's Kernel fell out of popularity, partly because of the dull appearance of its fruit. 




Ashmead's Kernel by Alan Buckingham

The fruit tends to be lumpy, mis-shapen and rather small, with the underlying bright-green skin entirely covered in russeting.

Picking, Storing and Using

People report the flavour of Ashmead's Kernel is markedly affected by weather conditions, varying considerably from year to year. When it’s good, it’s sublime; when it’s not, it’s nondescript. In a good year the fruit is unusually versatile; delicious in salads, excellent cooked and also highly-valued apple for juicing and cider-making. It should be picked late in the season and stores well. 

Growth, Flowering and Pollination

The variety can be challenging to grow; it takes at least three to four years to start fruiting and erratic flowering leads to comparatively light crops. Pollination is also difficult unless there are other varieties, such as Dumelow's Seedling or Howgate Wonder, flowering in close proximity at the same time. Ashmead's Kernel has a tendency to biennial bearing. Thinning out crops in heavy years can help reduce its susceptibility to bitter pit.

Ashmead's Kernel blossom
photographer unknown

Copyright © Karen Meadows 2018

'What an apple, what suavity of aroma. Its initial Madeira-like mellowness of flavour overlies a deeper honeyed nuttiness, crisply sweet not sugar sweet, but the succulence of a well-devilled marrow bone. Surely no apple of greater distinction or more perfect balance can ever have been raised anywhere on earth.'


Art critic and pomologist P. Morton Shand, BBC Radio, 1944.

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