Heritage apple conservation
Our objectives are to research, gather, protect and make available as well as curate Ireland’s national heritage apple tree collection. We make available the apple tree varieties to farmers, schools, community groups, the traditional orchardist, the home gardener and supporters to grow and reap the many benefits of not only growing your own food, but contributing to the protection of Ireland’s biodiversity, food heritage and ultimately our food security. The orchards on our Co Clare site alone allows Ireland to meet its European obligations in the area of conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources in food and agriculture.
Our DNA fingerprinting and analysis project is drawing to its conclusions. After some delay we have now received data for all trees across three genetic banks at Irish Seed Savers Association, University College Dublin and Agriculture, Food and Bioscience Institute in Loughgall Armagh. We have converted the data into an applicable format and have used it to inform a thorough conservation strategy.
From a European genetic resource and food protection point of view we now know what is ours, what we can finally hang our hat on as uniquely Irish and what we have to do to conserve each variety effectively in a national apple collection into the long term. We have confirmed 180 different heritage varieties, each with their own unique history. Some varieties date back as far as 500 years, and it is this history and conservation that is essential in keeping the heritage varieties alive today!
We now have a detailed plan to guide the utilization and curation of this unique collection over the next decade and beyond ( what trees to focus on propagating for retail, what trees need duplicates in the collection, what trees are being conserved in other national collections, what trees need to be added to agri-environmental scheme specifications etc) The result of this is we are able to effectively plan management of our orchards and streamline the operation of our nursery for both our conservation objectives and to meet the demand for our trees from our customers and supporters.
Every year we make available to the public a large selection of organic heritage apple trees. Our main objective for selling apple trees is to ensure that the traditional varieties are preserved and that people have the opportunity to access the nutrition and tastes of these fruits from their own gardens which they cannot buy in the supermarket. When choosing a tree many people would automatically choose a variety which they know, probably a supermarket variety that might not grow so well in the temperate Irish climate. It is well worth being more adventurous. The old varieties offer a vast range of tastes, , textures and uses , so long forgotten now they are mow firmly outside the public consciousness.
We grow organically certified, bareroot trees which are available to purchase online in Autumn once we release our online catalogue of what is available. They are bud grafted in July and are sold the following Autumn, They are then lifted from the field in Winter once dormant and online orders are processed packed and delivered from December to February.
Our container grown trees ensure we have stock all year round. These trees can be planted anytime of year There are 1year old maidens, grown in 4 litre pots or 2-3 year old in 7 litre pots. The older trees are only available for collection from our nursery or we do offer a pallet order delivery service via a courier for reliability.
If you do not know where to start, Seed Savers run workshops on creating your own orchard. We also host tasting tours on August; September, and October. This allows the public to learn about the varieties of heritage apples trees, enabling you to find a suitable apple for your own taste and preferences for eating apples, juicers, cookers or even the best options for producing cider. All questions are answered from soil type for growing, to disease resistance. And if you would prefer a tree from your neck of the woods, we can find a heritage variety with history from almost every county!
When you buy and grow an Irish Seed Savers apple tree, you are not just planting an apple tree, you are endorsing 30 years of dedicated safeguarding of each variety. You are future proofing Irish food and agricultural heritage by contributing to the work of we do in promoting intelligent land management practices and in changing the culture and the diet of Ireland for a sustainable future.
We offer a variety request service to supporters only. If you would like a particular variety on a certain rootstock it is worth ordering well in advance. To be sure of getting what you want in autumn, please order before March and trees can be grafted specially for you.
Each Winter we stock a limited number of rootstocks available to traditional orchardists to graft their own trees. Contact our shop for further info.