Bloody Ploughman Apples
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Bloody Ploughman apples are a medium to large varietal, averaging 6 to 8 centimeters in diameter, and have an ovate to slightly flattened, round shape with a thin and slender, dark brown stem. The apples are deeply ribbed, giving the fruit a ridged, somewhat knobby appearance, and the skin is semi-thin, smooth, and faintly glossy, covered in a sticky, greasy layer of wax. The skin also has a golden yellow hue, almost completely enveloped in a dark red-purple, crimson blush, and prominent yellow lenticels are scattered across the surface. Underneath the skin, the cream-colored to ivory flesh is soft, tender, fine-grained, and aqueous with a crisp consistency. The flesh may also showcase pink-red hues beneath the surface, giving the apple flesh a blushed appearance. In the center of the flesh, a fibrous core encases a few dark brown, oval seeds. Bloody Ploughman apples have a delicate, sweet, and light flavor combined with tangy and tart notes, creating a complex and balanced taste.
Bloody Ploughman apples are available in the mid-fall through winter.
Bloody Ploughman apples, botanically classified as Malus domestica, are an heirloom Scottish variety belonging to the Rosaceae family. The mid-season apples were first recorded in the 1800s and are a rare home garden variety steeped in whimsical folklore. Bloody Ploughman apples are highly favored for their crimson, saturated skin and light and sweet flavor. The fruits grow on compact trees that are highly productive, resistant to disease, and can adapt to colder regions of the United Kingdom. In the variety’s home country of Scotland, Bloody Ploughman apples are primarily consumed as a dessert or fresh eating apple. When the variety was introduced to England, apple enthusiasts began to use the apple in baked preparations, labeling it as a cultivar more suited for cooking. In the present day, Bloody Ploughman apples are challenging to find due to the overproduction of other more commercially suitable apple varieties. The unique, historical apples are primarily found in private orchards, home gardens, and select commercial orchards that are working to preserve heritage varieties.
Like other apple varieties, Bloody Ploughman apples are a good source of fiber to regulate the digestive tract, potassium to balance fluid levels within the body, and vitamin C to strengthen the immune system and reduce inflammation. The apples also provide vitamins A and E to maintain healthy organ functioning by protecting the cells against free radical damage and contain other amounts of phosphorus, magnesium, iron, zinc, copper, and calcium. The dark red pigment in the skin and flesh is attributed to the presence of anthocyanins, which contain antioxidant-like properties to guard the body and immune system against outside environmental aggressors.
Bloody Ploughman apples are a multi-purpose variety with a delicate, sweet flavor. The apples can be consumed straight, out of hand, and some mature apples will have pink-stained flesh, adding to their visual appeal. Bloody Ploughman apples can also be quartered and displayed on appetizer platters with soft cheeses, placed over peanut butter toast, layered into sandwiches, or chopped into green salads and slaws. In addition to fresh preparations, Bloody Ploughman apples transition into a light pink puree when cooked, creating an unusual rosy hue for pies, cakes, crisps, crumbles, tarts, and turnovers. The apples can also be cooked into colored jams, preserves, and apple sauces, or they add pink hues to ciders and pressed juices. Beyond fresh and cooked recipes, Bloody Ploughman apples can be dried and stored in rings for extended periods. These rings can be floated on top of soups as an edible garnish, chopped and baked into scones, consumed as a crunchy snack, or crumbled over yogurt or chia seed pudding. Bloody Ploughman apples pair well with lemon juice, maple syrup, vanilla, brown sugar, spices such as cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and cloves, and nuts including almonds, pistachios, pine, and walnuts. Whole, unwashed Bloody Ploughman apples will keep 1 to 2 months when stored in the refrigerator.
The origin of the Bloody Ploughman can be traced back to a well-known Scottish folk tale. The grim account has several variations, but the most widely shared version begins at the Megginch Estate in Scotland. Legend has it that a ploughman was found stealing apples from the estate’s orchard and was shot dead by the gamekeeper. The body was returned to the ploughman’s wife, who discovered some of the stolen apples still in his pockets. Out of anguish and disgust, the wife threw the apples onto a rubbish heap, leaving the fruits to rot. One of the apples eventually produced a seedling, and a workman noticed the seedling. The seedling created unusually dark red fruits, and superstition led the workman to believe the fruits had been stained by the blood of the late ploughman, thus inspiring the variety to be named Bloody Ploughman.
Bloody Ploughman apples are an heirloom variety native to the Carse of Gowrie, a region in Scotland. The variety’s parentage and date of origin are unknown, but it was first documented in records in 1883. The Carse of Gowrie is a narrow stretch of land traveling alongside the Firth of Tay, an inlet where the River Tay empties into the North Sea. This fertile area was once home to many orchards, producing several Scottish apples and other fruits. Within the Carse of Gowrie, Bloody Ploughman apples were believed to have been first found in the orchard of Megginch Castle, an estate owned by several generations of the Drummond family that has been in existence for over 500 years. Over time, the Carse of Gowrie lost most of its orchards due to the influx of imported apples and the need for urban development, causing many varieties, including Bloody Ploughman apples, to become rare. Today Bloody Ploughman apples are grown in private orchards, a few commercial orchards, and in home gardens in Scotland and England. The variety is considered a specialty heritage apple and is mainly offered through farm stands, local markets, and home growers.