It was a cold, miserable, late winter's day and we joined one of the groups being shown around the experimental plantings of various fruit trees. The hills area is well-known for stone fruit orchards and we first wandered along rows of leafless peaches, apricots, plums and nectarines with flower buds just starting to develop and learned about various methods of laying out an orchard and which were most successful in what area. Then we moved on to the apples and pears, all of which looked pretty lifeless, too, but we learned a lot.
The tour ended with us moving into the relative warmth of a big shed where we were invited to sample 'something special' that they had recently developed. The 'something special' turned out to be four different kinds of apple, two of which were very familiar - the pale gold American Golden Delicious apple and the rich red, tangy Lady Williams (a local Western Australian apple which originated from a stray seedling on a farm at Donnybrook in the south west of the state). The others were not.
We were told they were the offspring of Golden Delicious and Lady Williams apples and had been developed by John Cripps, the head of research at the research station. They were just about to become commercially available. Originally known as Cripps Pink (marketed as Pink Lady™) and Cripps Red (marketed as Sundowner™ - apparently it was a sport from the Cripps Pink) they were a revelation when we were offered a taste. Both were sweet, crunchy and had a pleasant tang and, we were told, both are suitable for eating fresh and cooking. As an added bonus they also store exceptionally well.
It's fascinating to think that - apart from the developers and the orchardists who first planted them commercially - we were among the first to taste these apples and they remain my favourites, both fresh and cooked.