County Armagh is known as the Orchard County because of its many apple orchards, producing about 35,000 tonnes of Bramley apples annually. Around 90 percent the crop is processed into produce such as juice, fresh slices, diced, purée and canned apples. The remainder are sold as fresh packed apples to grocers and retailers.
The apple is thought to date back to over 10 million years ago but the story of the apple is nowhere more prominent than in County Armagh, the Orchard of Ireland. Here the apple can be traced back to the days of Saint Patrick, when he is credited with planting an apple tree at the ancient settlement of Ceangoba, east of the City.
In 1884, Mr C J Nicholson of Cranagill House, Loughgall, bought 60 Bramley seedlings and introduced them to County Armagh. At that time this region was producing over 100 different different varieties of apples, many with wonderful names such as Widow’s Whelps, Sugar Sweet, Foxes Whelps, Strawberry Cheeks, Gillyflowers, Irish Peach, Angel Bites, Beauty of Bath, Honey Comb, Ladyfingers, Bloody Butcher, Red Russets and Gillflowers.
By 1921, the Bramley apple had become the principal variety and today accounts for approximately 90 percent of the apples grown and processed in County Armagh. In 2012, the Armagh Bramley apple became part of a premium food club when it was awarded Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) Status under the EU Protected Food Name Scheme. The status ensures that Armagh Bramley apple is ranked alongside the world’s premium protected food products.