5 reasons to plant heritage fruit trees
If you love summer fruit, or fruit all year round, now is the time to go wild and plant your dream orchard.
Words: Nadene Hall
1. You can choose the tree that best suits your block
Commercial apple trees – and there are only a handful of varieties available in supermarkets – travel and store well and can require a lot of spraying. Their desired features are also often at the expense of things like disease-resistance or hardiness.
In contrast, there are thousands of heirloom fruit trees and out of them there will be ones that suit your particular climate issues and soils, and when you choose the right one, you’re not going to require pesticides to keep it healthy and productive.
2. They are significantly more nutritious
Probably the most famous heritage fruit tree in NZ is an apple called Monty’s Surprise, a lone tree found on a remote farm near Whanganui.
When its fruit was tested, along with more than 250 other apple varieties, it was found to have the highest levels of procyanidins of any tested worldwide so far, and far, far greater than commercial types.
This, and substantial levels of other compounds, gives them the potential to be far superior varieties for human health, preventing disease, including cancer.
3. You can grow your own alcohol supply
If you’re old enough to remember trying apples from gnarly old trees that were sour enough to make your eyes water, you’ll know cider apples and perry pears aren’t for eating.
But put them under pressure and let them bubble away and you’ll have your own brewery.
4. You can grow fruit to last you year-round
A traditional orchard would have had something fruiting in it all year.
There would be plums and peaches from November, and apples right into May, citrus throughout winter and then all the fruits that were grown specifically because they stored well, especially apples which – if you get the right heritage varieties and store them properly – will naturally last from picking in May until early summer.
5. You get to choose the best-named fruit
Marketers choose names for modern fruit: Pacific Rose, Fuji, Jazz. But why go for boring when you can grow trees with names like Slap Ma Girdle (cider apple), Jelly King (crabapple, used in preserves), Belle du Jumet (a sweet sugar pear), Elephant Heart (dessert/bottling plum), and Pudge (small golden peach).
There are nurseries all over NZ that specialise in heritage fruit trees, and don’t let location hold you back. Fruit trees travel well and it can be well worth a small investment in travel to get trees that will be feeding you and the families that come after you.