Lecture by Alan Chadwick in New Market, Virginia, 1979
Lecture 7: Propagation, Part 6
An Introduction to Alan Chadwick's Lectures and a Glossary of Terms
The full text of this lecture segment
Contents of this Segment:
Pears ripen from inside out; apples from the outside in. A partial retelling of the story of the Bramley Seedling, as requested by a student. The coconut. (17:21)
New Market, Virginia, September 12, 1979
Lecture 7, Propagation, Part 6
... as what we stupidly call a [ ] food, a soil food. And thus with Rumex, the dock family; the Plantago, wayroad[?], you call it plantain; and for instance the origin of the cabbage, which is that sea-cliff, wonderful, hot cabbage which grows... Brassica nigra. You can turn the soil after forty years―that seed has been there forty years―that won’t have turned into a fertilization but will germinate when you bring it to the top. And likewise, with the Capsella bursa. And the little Stellaria media, this tiny, little, smallest of stars on Earth will germinate after thirty years. And mustard, ...Sinapium[?]... mustard… [ ]… thirty years, thirty years.
Well, I would imagine everybody is exhausted. Would you like to discuss? Anything you want to talk about it?
Q: Alan, would you like to tell the story of the Brambley Seedling?
Ah, that’s what you’ve been sitting there thinking[?] Very well.
When we come to the orcharding, we will discover an astonishing matter: That if you go to every emporium in America—probably more so in the next five years, heaven knows, unless the bottom really does fall out—you will see nothing but counters, in the apples, of Red Delicious and Yellow Delicious. And that's about it. There are slight variations in bags (that somebody sat on!) but very, very little variation. And those Red Delicious, if you have watched them, if you have unfortunately purchased them, you will have discovered over a period―I can only speak, of course, of over a certain period of a decade and a half―but during that period there is no question that every year there has been a lack of juice, a lack of flavor, a lack of texture, a toughness of skin, and every time looking more and more: “Buy me won’t you, I am for sale!”
And… do you realize every one of them, every one of those Red Delicious and every one of that Yellow Delicious came from one seed out of one apple. It couldn’t have come from anything else. One seed in one apple. Not the seeds in an apple. One seed in an apple. The other seeds were different. Now you must realize this, because here is the matter of classic re-entry into this world. You see it at once. The whole beauty of man in the garden is endless. When I studied with Lorette, we had two hundred and eighty exquisite pears that ripened throughout the year, throughout the year. And we eventually even brought off, Lorette did, a pear that ripened at the end of June the next year, and managed to keep it a year after that in the store. There is nothing, there is nothing that cannot come out of pardaes. And there were about three hundred and twenty exquisite apples, every one of utter difference: between cooking and dessert, or cooking and dessert both, of shape, of size, of color, of weeks of ripening. This one, for instance, would keep from January to June. These must be eaten immediately in November when they ripen. This is like a peach, that is like a pineapple. And that you would use the different herbs in the storage of them, to protect them.
And this incredible magic that must tell you at once the performance of the plants. And how stupid we are to connect the whole thing only with the family of Rosaceae, of Eros. That roses, apples and pears are all identical same family. Well, throw an apple in the river and it swims. Throw a pear in the river and it drowns. And an apple ripens from outside to in and a pear ripens from inside to out. So if you think a pear is ripe and when you look at an apple, you will find it is rotten. And the other way about.
You still want the story? You see I’ve squeezed a little bit more in.
Well, there was a farmer’s wife who was a very good wife. And she ran the farmhouse excellently: stone floors, great big wooden kitchen table in the middle of the kitchen, huge great fireplace with ovens on either side, smoke coming out of the chimney. And away around were gardens with lovely flowerbeds, and little walkways with flowers on either side, and the different herbs, which lead down into different areas where the pig sties were, and the cattle were grazing in the distance, and the hills were away. And there were little orchards of cherries and a rough standard orchard that the cows grazed under, where the cooking apples grew. And then there were some rather nice eating apples that were looked after far better. The cooking apples were not.
And it was this day that to that area that Mrs. Brambley went with a basket, down the path and round the corner, for it was her husband James’ birthday. And the one thing that he adored, more than anything, for his lunch on his birthday was an apple tart. And so there she was with this great apple tree, apples rather out of reach. And she was shaking it, and they were not ripe, quite, but very nearly. And so she collected this basket of apples, she went back to the kitchen, and she roughly peeled and cored them. And she made the pastry and she made this apple tart. And she served it for lunch and they all enjoyed it. And he gave her a huge kiss and a glass of sherry to thank her.
When it was over, of course, he went back to the pigs and things, and she had to clear it all up. Now she took all the remnants of the tart and the cookings, and she threw it, of course, where she always threw them, in the compost. And there we leave it for a year. At which period she came back, next spring, and she was very astonished in coming round the corner of the compost, to suddenly see a whole lot of what she recognized as a group of practically two hundred little apple seedlings. The extraordinary thing was that beside them, amongst them, was one sticking right up, with totally different foliage, with totally different growth that was unmistakable. And she was so struck by this differentiation…she wasn’t struck by the apples because dates came up in the thing, even grape pits that were thrown out from the muskats came up. And of course, you can imagine every type of seed came up. And they were all churned in, of course, and made back into the life force. But it was this differentiation which struck her. For she had seen the cherries come up and she had seen pears come up, but they all came up the same, equal.
So she just observed this and she stuck a stake in to protect it. And she didn’t do anything. But about six weeks later she went around and she suddenly remembered and she went and had a look at this. And my goodness, a change had taken place. The apple seedlings had hardly grown at all, but this particular one was three times the size. It was up here, like a forest tree. So she rushed away and she said, “James, James you must come and look at this. It’s very interesting. Never seen anything quite like it. Do you remember on your birthday last year when we had the apple tart? Well, that’s where I threw it. And those are almost certainly the seedlings that come up from the issue. Now do you see that one? Do you see the leaves are as big as that? Where as the other leaves are little tiny stinky things.”
James looked and he said, “By golly. Strike me pink.” He says, “Well, it certainly is. You’re quite right, it’s very interesting. Let’s put four posts around it and protect it,” which they did. So they watched it like that, and that proceeded for another year. They didn’t interfere with it. And next year they came around. Their observations were very, very verbosely articulate, for this thing was up here, and these others were still there. So they said, “We better get Archie.” And he was at that time known as the ministry superintendent. Now they were people who went down... they had rather a good salary, they put their cap at an angle, and they always had a lot of documents in a case. They still had to do quite a lot of work and they really had to know their onions a bit. So they brought Charlie in to have a look. Whereupon Charlie, both his knees went outwards like that. He said, “Criky! Golly! You got something here. I tell you this, you got something here. No doubt about it.”
So, according to his instructions, they transplanted it very carefully. And they transplanted the others also, in order to keep a relationship between what was happening. Well, eventually this big one, that we are talking about, had thorns on it, as they all do, and at that they had kind of rather groaned. And they went, “Uh-oh. Here is another crab.”
After eight years a fruit bud formed, at least; there were two or three fruit buds. (It was a long time ago now, two hundred years or more.) And the fruit buds blossomed and the blossoms were like carnations, single carnations, huge, exquisite color and very tight to the stem. And they set, the few of them set into apples. And they had big crimples in them, and they were very big as they grew, green-like. But they grew at a terrific pace. Now those other trees had not bloomed yet at all and were covered in thorns. And Charlie came in and observed, and they brought a whole lot of other people in. They brought the local squire in, and he said all sorts of voluminous words in Greek that they couldn’t understand. And these apples simply swelled and swelled. And they went sideways and rather flat. And they thought, when is it going to stop? For it was rather like the dwarf that ate the pear and his nose grew. These apples grew actually like this. There had never been an apple seen of this size in the world.
And when autumn came, it got a very slight roseate kiss on one cheek and they were still what you call livid green. And so the leaves fell off and the tree went into dormancy. And the apples were there, these enormous, round, flat apples with considerable crinkles going into the eye. Whereupon they said, “It is time.” And they had a huge conclave in the kitchen. The whole table was scrubbed and one apple was picked and brought in. In actual matter, it fell into their hands. And they got a beautiful knife and they cut it in portions and they took a ...[grimace]… It was incredibly sour. And they cooked it and there never was such an apple. It was exquisite in texture, in flavor, and the acidity all turned into a beautiful cooked apple formation. It became the apple of the world. Everybody wanted the trees. They propagated it at the fastest speed possible.
And we will relate all this in our orcharding, but they brought in varietal disintegration at the fastest possible speed. Today you cannot buy a Brambley Seedling―as it became known at the shows: Brambley Seedling apple―without it having endless infections and diseases, bitter pith, and everything else. You will come to see why. It is most interesting and inescapable. That is how that particular apple came about. That is how all apples, all pears, all cherries have come about. We will study this as we go along.
Have you anything else you want to discuss, other than another story? It might just interest you; I have a statistic that must be of interest. When we talked about the Lilium giganticum taking the first germination two days and the next germination two years. You all probably know of the coconut tree? And you must know, then, of the coco-de-mer, which only grows now, I believe, literally in the Seychelles? But where it drops off onto the sand beaches of the Seychelles Islands, which are on the equator―which is where Atlantis is said to be, and is as deep there as the Himalayas are high. It’s the deepest ocean of the world, immeasurable. And that those coco-de-mer grow there, fall, roll down the beach into the sea, cross the ocean, and are born on other islands. That may take ten years to grow into a nut and that there are two coconuts in one, as you know. And that they weigh forty pounds, the coco-de-mer. Quite a useful little product in the kitchen! A little variation on [ ].