The buds are just starting to appear on the apple trees of the Orchard County.
This year’s bounty will be something special after the Armagh Bramley became only the third Northern Ireland food to have its name protected at European level.
Armagh Bramley Apples have been awarded Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status. It joins the Comber early, the Lough Neagh eel and more than 1,000 famous European names in earning the sought-after stamp.
Under this system a named food or drink will be given legal protection against imitation throughout the EU. It joins the likes of Parma ham, the Cornish pasty, Cheddar cheese and Kentish ale in the public eye — and a place on menus that highlight the provenance of their produce.
Thanks to our northerly location, Bramley orchards produce fewer apples but a richer flavour and a firmer, denser fruit. Agriculture Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “The Armagh Bramley Apple is widely recognised by professional chefs and home cooks alike as the best apple for cooking.
“It is encouraging to have our products recognised across the EU. PGI registration is good news for the local economy and will help local growers to market Armagh Bramley Apples domestically and further afield and will provide protection against imitation.”
Due to their denser texture, Armagh Bramleys can be stored for much longer (12-13 months) and hold their flavour when cooked.
The colder climate means fewer insects and less need for insecticides.
There is a longer growing season, resulting in a larger, firmer Bramley apple.
Apples have been grown in Armagh for 3,000 years. The Bramley was first brought to Armagh in 1884 when a Mr Nicholson bought 60 Bramley seedlings from Henry Merryweather. By 1921, 7,000 acres had been planted.
The £50m-a-year Armagh apple industry employs up to 1,500 people. Apple blossom tours are held in May when the flower turns the hills and stately homes into a sea of pink. Restaurants promote dishes made from Armagh apples, including Armagh Bramley apple pie, apple sorbet and apple crumble.
What makes an Armagh Bramley?
The characteristics that make our apples so special:
- Large in size
- Flat-sided ribbed apex, large eye which is part-opened
- Solid green colour with reddish blush
- Sepals brown and downy
- Stalk is short and thick
- Flesh is white with a tinge of green and is firm and moist
- Tangy flavour
- Maintains texture and taste when cooked
- Robust, allowing for longer storage
Melton Mowbray pork pie
Lough Neagh eels
North Holland Gouda
Traditional Cumberland sausage