Heritage fruit

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Old fashioned, or Heritage Fruit trees including apple, quince, fig, plum, peach and pear trees are increasingly popular due to their extra flavour and nutritional qualities. In supermarkets only a limited range of commercial fruit varieties is available to consumers. During the 19th and early 20th centuries the diversity was huge. Old nursery catalogues[1] were filled with plums, peaches, pears and apples of numerous varieties, few of which are grown today. In the 21st century, numerous community groups all over the world are working to preserve historic varieties to make a wide variety of fruit trees available again to the home gardener, by renovating old orchards, sourcing historic fruit varieties and encouraging community participation.[2]

The heritage fruit trees that exist today are clonally descended from trees of antiquity. Cloning means that the new trees are genetically identical to their parents. Our heritage trees actually have the same genetic code as the original trees that grew centuries ago in Great Britain, Asia, North America and Europe.[3] For example, one apple variety, “Court Pendu Plat”,[4] is 1500 years old - the oldest known apple variety. Introduced into Europe during Roman times, it flourishes to this day.

In the 21st century, renewed interest in preserving heritage fruit varieties is evidenced by the existence of organisations such as the Brogdale Farm National Fruit collection in the UK, Pommiers Anciens in France, and Petty's Orchard, The Heritage Fruits Society and Werribee Park Heritage Orchard in Australia.

What is the difference between heritage plants and heirloom plants? There is no difference. Basically, they refer to the same things. Australians favour the term 'heritage' while in other countries the term 'heirloom' is generally used. [5]

Why preserve Heritage Fruits?
• Flavour and nutritional benefits.
Biodiversity - Genetic diversity insures against pests and diseases.
• Longer picking season with early and late ripening
• Culture - heritage varieties are living history. Anyone who is the custodian of an old tree should treasure it.[6]


  1. ^ Werribee Park Heritage Orchard
  2. ^ Heritage Fruits Society
  3. ^ 'The Story of the Apple,' Barrie Edward Juniper, D. J. Mabberley.
  4. ^ Habitaid
  5. ^ Heritage Fruits Society
  6. ^ Heritage Fruits Society

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