I recently discovered the blog Cider Ireland, which has kept me informed on the past and present story of the cider apple on the Emerald Isle. Contributor Mark Jenkinson informs us that references to apples go back 5000 years in Ireland, and apple cultivation began more than 1000 years ago. This tidbit from his essay, “A Brief History of Apples and Cider Making in Ireland,” gives us a clue as to the value of apple trees in Medieval Ireland:
“In the 7th and 8th centuries AD the ancient Irish law tracts or Brehon Laws classed the Apple tree among the ‘seven nobles of the woods’ along with Ash, Oak, Hazel, Holly, Scots pine and Yew and they distinguished between wild and cultivated apple trees indicating that sweeter more palatable apples were already being grown at that time. The fine for cutting down one of these trees was 5 milk cows and double that if the tree belonged to a chieftain……..at that time, a King’s ransom to say the least !”
I plan to make tasting some of the new Irish craft ciders a priority on my next trip to Ireland!