It is illegal to sell ‘Pink Lady’ apple trees as the variety can only be grown under license, and the license holder – Apple and Pear Australia – refuses to license to British growers. You won’t be able to grow the tree from the apple’s seeds as they are a combination of genetic information from the variety and another apple.
‘Pink Lady’ is representative of the rise of foreign cultivars, a story that is detailed below, but if you want to still grow a tree, there are many excellent, arguably superior alternatives below.
There was once a time when UK supermarkets were stacked with traditional Victorian varieties such as ‘Cox’s Orange Pippin’, ‘Egremont Russet’ and ‘Worcester Pearmain’, but then came the American ‘Golden Delicious’ and Australian ‘Granny Smith’ with the UK’s entry into the common market and after that the “antipodean four”: ‘Gala’, ‘Braeburn’, ‘Jazz’ and ‘Pink Lady’, which originate from New Zealand and Australia – a region sometimes known as the antipodes. Now, you may have noticed the introduction of the American ‘Opal’, which is unique in its resistance to browning.
The growth of such varieties highlight changing consumer tastes, the commercialisation of apple growing and the supermarket’s demand for uniformity – a trend now in reverse with today’s consumers fed up of plastic packaging and commercial waste.
Put ‘Granny Smith’ and ‘Bramley’ side-by-side and rate them on aesthetics, you can see something like the descent of man with the heavily-russeted, misshapen ‘Bramley’ evolving into the shiny, round ‘Granny Smith’. The new introduction was cleverly marketed as a dual-purpose apple, but perhaps is only good in a salad. Anyone who has bitten into a ‘Granny Smith’ will note its overwhelming acidity, which will stop all but the bravest.
The “antipodean four” all share a crunchy texture, good skin finish (typically red), and high sugar content, which originates in part from the antipode climate and the long sunlight hours that the UK can’t match.
Sunlight, of course, plays a key role in photosynthesis, which results in light energy being converted into sugar, which is primarily stored in fruit. These apples are well-adapted to the UK’s changed palette, now accustomed to highly processed foods that are full of sugar.
A key determinant of colour is the pigment anthocyanin, which is again driven by sunlight helps such cultivars such as ‘Pink Lady’ stand out against traditional English cultivars such as ‘Cox’. Appearance is unfortunately associated with taste and Britons eat 80% more red apples than green.
Crunchiness is caused by the mechanical damage of your bite, which breaks cell walls, causing the release of juice. Crunchiness is a factor of the strength of the cell walls and the rigidity of the cells, which is a function of the water and sugar stored with the cell, as well as the age of the apple. It can be said that the sunlight hours also drive crunchiness.
Apples with the right size, shape and colour receive the highest prices from supermarkets, with apples divided into class I and class II fruit, with class II rarely being sold. (You may have noticed those “little less than perfect apples” at Waitrose.) A ‘Gala’ tree produces a significantly higher proportion of class I fruit than a ‘Cox’, resulting in such varieties being taken up UK growers.
The newest of the “antipodean four” – ‘Jazz’ and ‘Pink Lady’ – are cleverly marketed and carefully managed. Their names for example are actually trademarks with ‘Jazz’ the name of the variety ‘Scifresh’ and ‘Pink Lady’ ‘Cripps Pink’.
‘Jazz’ was developed by Enza, New Zealand Apple and Pear Marketing Board, and Plant & Food Research, while ‘Pink Lady’ was developed by Apple and Pear Australia. They can both be only grown under license, and the trademark holders refuse to license ‘Pink Lady’ to UK growers, fearing the climate will not do it justice. This is why you will never find a ‘Pink Lady’ apple tree for sale.
‘Pink Lady’ has its own website as well as Facebook and Twitter. The brand was keen to give out apples for free on launch at various London stations and even had a tie in Great Ormond Street Hospital. It has its own logo “so much more than an apple”, which is again trademarked. The campaign was so successful, it even won an award at the Chartered Institute of Marketing.
As detailed above, even if you were able to grow an ‘Pink Lady’ apple in your garden, it would be unlikely to taste like one found in the supermarket, owing to the UK’s climatic conditions. The UK’s lack of sunlight can actually be an advantage as when yields are smaller flavour is often concentrated. Flavour is more than just sugar content, but acidity and mouthfeel. ‘Cox’ is famously aromatic and high in both sugar and acidity, creating well balanced flavour.
The Antipodean Apples
RHS Award Of Garden Varieties
A British classic, but somewhat difficult to grow. You won’t be disappointed with apples you recieve!
Jorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!
His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.
Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.