Deciduous fruit are actually part of a larger group known as orchard fruits; this group includes stone fruit such as plums, cherries, nectarines and apricots, and pome fruit which includes apples and pears.
Pome fruit have small seeds contained within a central core, from which a stalk grows, attaching it to the plant. They predate much of history, dating back to ancient times. They were well known to the Romans, who assisted the spread of the fruit within the Roman Empire. During the Dark Ages however, they lost popularity, with most common-folk farming from the wild, whilst the main cultivators of fruit orchards were monasteries.
During the middle ages, after the Norman Conquest of England, the popularity of pome fruit increased, with the Normans bringing many varieties over from France. During this time, orchards spread across the country; not just for food purposes, but also it was during this time that alcoholic drinks from apples and pears gained popularity.
There was a further flood of new varieties and enthusiasm into cultivation in the 16th Century during the reign of King Henry VIII. Varieties were imported from France and the Netherlands and exported to the colonies of the developing British Empire. By the Victorian period, the number of varieties of known apples or pears had grown from a few hundred several centuries ago to numbering in the tens of thousands.
Sadly, after the advent of the First and Second World War, many of those varieties have been lost to us today after many orchards were replaced with land to grow cereal crops, with maybe 1500-2000 varieties of apples and pears known, and much fewer, typically around 50, actually grown commercially. There are in recent years however, planting programs underway to preserve the heritage of these fruit.
- Apple - Nature's perfect ready meal, apples are ready to eat any time.
- Pear - Pears are botanically very similar to apples, in terms of the tree itself, and the structure of the fruit.