Belfast Telegraph

You can almost smell mum's apple pie: Photographer's pictures reveal how family is reaping a bounty at harvest time in Orchard County

By Amanda Ferguson

It is known as the Orchard County and for good reason.

With 200 growers in the beautiful Armagh countryside, it is home to around 5,000 acres of apples, producing around 40,000 tonnes of the sought-after fruit each year.

The apples our growers produce are destined for pie fillings, cider bottles and other uses in an industry valued at tens of millions per annum.

And thanks to the efforts of the Northern Ireland Fruit Growers Association (NIFGA) and the Fruit Industry Federation, in 2012 the European Union granted the Armagh Bramley Apple Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) status for its distinctive flavour, characteristics and long shelf life.

The apples at Sammy MacNeice’s 90-acre orchard in the townland of Ardress East, Portadown, look and taste beautiful.

“MacNeice Bros is the growing side of the business and MacNeice Fruit Ltd is the manufacturing side for catering and the baking industry,” Sammy said.

“We make MacIvor’s apple cider too.

“I specialise in the farming and growing and my son Greg takes care of the manufacturing side for canned apple, apple sauce and fresh pie mix.

“The apples got PGI status so it marks it out as special to the area. Quality-wise, if is different to any other grown.

“It is firmer, has a special tartish taste for cooking, it stands up in cooking, there’s a tremendous taste off it,” Sammy explained.

Dermot Morgan, secretary of the NIFGA which was founded in 1942, told the Belfast Telegraph the Armagh Bramley is like no other cooking apple in the world and it has been a good season for growers.

“The weather has been quite favourable this year, the rain has come at just the right time,” he said. “The apples have started to swell out and the crop is going to be plentiful.”

The Armagh Bramley Apple Festival takes place tomorrow  at Shambles Market Yard in the city.

For the first time, three PGI products — Armagh Bramley, Lough Neagh eel and Comber potato — will be showcased together.

“It’s a family event,” Dermot said.

“It is open to everyone, admission is free and people will learn all about the wonderful Armagh Bramley.”

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