Isle of Wight Apples
In 1997 this article appeared in the Daily Mail (thank you to the Daily Mail for giving us permission to reproduce the text here)
Wonder apple takes a big bite out of the record books
They call it the Howgate Wonder – and as well as spectacularly living up to its name it was about to grab a prized record from the land of the Big Apple yesterday.
When Kent farmer Alan Smith gently laid it on the scales, it weighed in at 3lbs 11 ozs – making it the world’s heaviest.
The current record holder – listed in the Guinness Book of records as an apple grown in Oregon in 1994 – could not even say it was pipped at the post. It weighed only 3lb 4ozs. ‘I am amazed and delighted’ said 56 year old Mr Smith from Pike Farm, near Maidstone, ‘We have been watching it grow with increasing nervousness’.
The Guinness Book of Records said that the cooking apple – which survived heavy spring frosts – would win its place if it had been properly weighed and witnessed. Organisers of the Marden Show made sure of that, even hiring a security guard to stop anyone peeling off with it.
The cooking apple kept on growing on a 17 year old tree at Mr Smith’s farm while others failed to fruit.
He first noticed the huge apple – the size of a ten pin bowling ball – when it was time to harvest the Howgate Wonder crop. ‘There were one or two of them and as there was no market for them, apart from juice, I just decided to let them grow. In the past couple of weeks we have nurtured this one, supporting it with a stocking net against the wind and the starlings and watching it get bigger and bigger. Then last Friday I heard this forecast for storms and high winds and I lost my nerve and picked it’.
The apple in the article above measured 7inches across and had a 21inch circumference! The record still stands.
I have just been sent this story about a very large Howgate Wonder apple. (September 2012)
'I do not believe what I am about to tell you but here goes. Some 40 years ago I worked as a crossing keeper in Suffolk. Tiny house/bungalow. The garden boasted three apple trees which produced huge apples, the largest I had ever seen. They were identified as Howgate Wionder by a local fruit farmer. On one occasion I picked one that stood out from all the others because of its colossal size. It weighed out on my equilibrium scales at 4lbs 8ozs exactly. About four years later on a visit to my old crossing (we moved to Chichester) we found it to be unoccupied so we went scrumping and came home with 40lbs of these beautiful apples (How could I let them go to waste?) We took a few to the local Apple Day at West Dean College and they were again identified as Howgate Wonder by three independent apple experts. They were truly beautiful apples and we used to look forward to blackberry time. Every other day we had Apple and Blackberry pie - still a great favourite with us. At the time of weighing we never gave World Records a thought, perhaps there was a train due at the time. It was a shame to eat it but we did.'
The Howgate Wonder began life on the Isle of Wight. The apple was raised in 1915 by Mr George Wratten, a retired gardener and former policeman who moved to the island in the early 1900s. The parents were probably Newton Wonder and Blenheim Orange. The Wrattens lived at 4, Hope Cottages, Howgate Lane in Bembridge, the house is still there today although the original tree was cut down in the late 1960s. Neighbours still remember the tree with branches touching the ground in apple season.
George Wratten’s daughter in law, Nancy Garbutt lived until recently in Bembridge and her daughter Jane Wratten keeps the family name (Mrs Garbutt remarried after her husband died in 1975). Suttons bought the rights to the apple from Mr Wratten, Mrs Garbutt always felt he had sold them for too little but who could have known the future fame of the Howgate Wonder.
Mr Wratten and a box of Howgate Wonder apples
In 2004 Mrs Garbutt and her daughter came to Apple Weekend as honoured guests and saw the newly planted Howgate Wonder trees at Afton Park. Mrs Garbutt enjoyed talking about her memories and chatting to all the visitors.
The Howgate Wonder is a tall, conical apple, with brown red stripes over yellow green, which then develops a very distinctive pink blush all over, with deeper stripes as it ripens. It is a cooker although Mrs Garbutt says it can also be used as a dessert. As a cooker it has a light flavour and holds its shape. The Howgate Wonder is obtainable from several nurseries.
Howgate Wonder in Spring