Cox's Orange Pippin
Origin and History
Considered by many the quintessential English eating apple, Cox’s Orange Pippin was raised in 1825 by Richard Cox, a Bermondsey brewer who had retired to Colnbrook, near Slough. It was probably a cross between Ribston Pippin and Blenheim Orange and Richard Cox also raised a sister variety, Cox’s Pomona, from the same batch of pips.
At that time the area surrounding what is now Heathrow Airport was the richest apple-producing land in the UK and a local market gardener, E Small & Son, propagated Cox and attempted to market the trees in the early 1840s, meeting with only limited success. It was taken on by Charles Turner of the
nearby Royal Nurseries, who exhibited the fruit in 1850 (four years after Richard Cox's death), whereupon it quickly gained popularity, winning a prize in the Horticultural Society’s Grand Fruit Exhibition of 1857 and soon overtaking its principal contemporaries, such as Beauty of Bath and Worcester Pearmain.
It was Cox’s notorious susceptibility to almost every apple disease that led to its virtual disappearance from commercial production until the advent of intense chemical spraying methods in the 1960s. Today Cox’s Orange Pippin accounts both for the majority of domestic commercial orchards and for a high percentage of our apple imports but remains a poor choice for organic growers.
The journalist Michael Leapman writing in The Telegraph describes Cox as having 'a mysterious, slightly scented acidity.' He goes on to say: 'If for many of us its flavour is the essence of the British autumn, this is in part because we are almost the only country in the world where the variety can be grown successfully. Something called a Cox’s Orange Pippin is grown in New Zealand, and appears in British shops during the summer, but it never tastes quite like the real thing: the characteristic tang and aroma are less pronounced, perhaps dissipated during the long voyage from the other side of the world.'(1)
The fruit is small to medium-sized, greeny-yellow with red streaks on the sunny side, ripening to gold and orange. The longer it remains on the tree, the more it reddens. It has a dry skin with russet specks and patches. The flesh is rich, crunchy and juicy, ‘full of aromatic flavour and perfume.’
Picking, Storing and Using
The tree is upright, spreading and moderately vigorous but a martyr to canker, scab, bitter-pit, aphids and mildew. Because of its outstanding taste and texture, Cox’s Orange Pippin has probably been used to breed more varieties than any other apple.
Good pollinators include Charles Ross, Ellison’s Orange, Howgate Wonder and Lord Lambourne.
Cox does not store well beyond two weeks and is best left on the tree until early October. Owing to its acidity, it can also be used as a cooker, and windfalls make excellent chutney.
Growth, Flowering and Pollination
SOURCES AND ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:
(1) Why Cox's will always be the apple of my eye, Michael Leapman, The Telegraph, 15.3.2011
Copyright © Karen Meadows 2018