Friday, October 17, 2008

Ribston Pippin **

When I asked for some Cox's Orange Pippin at Gould Hill Orchard, the staff apologized and offered these. They are an introduction to a whole different cohort of apples, full flavored, dense, and complex.

Also know as Glory of York, this apple's story is summarized in Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable as follows:

So called from Ribston, in Yorkshire, where Sir Henry Goodricke planted three pips, sent to him from Rouen, in Normandy. Two pips died, but from the third came all the Ribston apple-trees in England.

Gould Hill repeats this story and dates the fruit from 1707. It is one of many web sites that say Ribston is the parent of the celebrated Cox's Orange Pippin. The Yorkshire-based Orange Pippin is more cautious about that, and tells us the fruit was "very popular in Victorian times."

I find Ribston Pippin a medium-sized apple with a variegated appearance: orange-red blush over green shot with russet. The lenticels are a light tan.

The fruit is firm and slightly ribbed, and smells ever-so-slightly of moss. I wonder if that isn't the russet.

The flesh is yellow and substantial: firm and dense, though not fine-grained, crunchy but not snapping crisp.

The first impression is of acid, but there are many complex flavors including banana, pear, malt, and (fleetingly) peach. There are also elusive suggestions of something deeper, almost chocolate or chestnut. The flavor includes a little tempering sweetness in which the acidity sounds the stronger note. It's not exactly balanced.

Indeed, it's a little crazy and wild--but gloriously so.

Ribston delivers a heady bouquet of Victorian tastes. If some apples are vinous, Ribston is a complex amontillado.

Vintage Virginia Apples accounts scientifically for the apple's strong acid impression by noting it "has one of the highest vitamin C contents" and names some of its many apple offspring.

There is an entire chapter devoted to the Ribston Pippin in the hoary (1841) Pomologia Britannica.


  1. I picked up some of these today in San Diego. Quite variable; one was verging on mealy. But the one I just ate was rather russeted and very, very good.

  2. I just tried a Ribston Pippin from a farmers market in Cambridge MA. It was just over half pale green, the other half a mottled red like your photo. The flesh was extremely crisp. The taste was pleasant and fruity, but not nearly as complex as I was expecting. Maybe it was underripe?

    1. I know the grower you bought from. They pick early, a shame because they grow some really unusual, and great, varieties.

      I've had Ribstons from them, and agree with your assessment. I got the above sample at Gould Hill in October, not mid September.


Join the conversation! We'd love to know what you think.