Belle de Pontoise

Origin and History

 

Belle de Pontoise was raised in 1869 by M. Rémy Snr, a Parisian horticulturalist whose nurseries were at Pontoise, in what is now the township of Cergy-Pontoise, to the north-west of the city. It was first marketed in 1878 and appears to have been a seedling of the old Russian apple, Grand Alexandre, renowned for its spectacular size. 

Fruit

 

The fruit is large and handsome. The skin is yellow with a cherry-red flush, slight russeting and small lenticels. The flesh is white, crisp and juicy.

Picking, Storing and Using

Belle de Pontoise can be eaten as a crisp dessert apple or used in cooking. It travels well (hence its original commercial popularity) and stores well. It was once used to add a sweet note to Normandy cider.

Growth, Flowering and Pollination

 

The tree is upright and fairly vigorous, flowering mid-season. It is self-sterile and needs a pollinator such as Allington Pippin, James Grieve or Laxton's Fortune.

Belle de Pontoise is an interesting find for us. Never widely grown in England, it was not stocked by any local nurseries. It might have been grafted from a tree at nearby Burghley House or another stately home. 

In 1872 Camille Pissarro made several paintings of the apple trees of Pontoise .

After living abroad for most of his life, Pissarro settled with his wife, Julie, and their growing family at Osny, near what was then the village of Pontoise on the outskirts of Paris. Pissarro had a keen interest in the local landscape and many of his paintings depict villagers' gardens. He almost certainly knew M. Rémy and his nursery. 

'Its name resembles that of a rose'

On 25 October 2013 Le Parisien published an article entitled 'La Belle de Pontoise Endormie', explaining that Pontoise and its surroundings once supplied the whole of Paris with fresh produce and describing how the township replanted 200 of the now rare variety to celebrate the millennium. '"We sometimes find old specimens in gardens," says local pomologist, Sylvain Drocourt. “Perhaps its charming name is what’s kept it in our collective memory.”' © Le Parisien 25 October 2013

Copyright © Karen Meadows 2018

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