Malus domestica 'Bramley's Seedling' (commonly known as the Bramley apple, or simply Bramley, Bramleys or Bramley's) is a cultivar of apple which is usually eaten cooked due to its sourness. The Concise Household Encyclopedia states, "Some people eat this apple raw in order to cleanse the palate, but Bramley's seedling is essentially the fruit for tart, pie, or dumpling." Once cooked, however, it has a lighter flavour. A peculiarity of the variety is that when cooked it becomes golden and fluffy.
'Bramley's Seedling' apple trees are large, vigorous, spreading and long-lived. They tolerate some shade. The apples are very large, two or three times the weight of a typical dessert apple. They are flat with a vivid green skin which becomes red on the side which receives direct sunlight. The tree is resistant to apple scab and mildew and does best when grown as a standard in somewhat heavy clay soil. It is a heavy and regular bearer, and as a triploid, it has sterile pollen. It needs a pollenizer but cannot pollenize in return, so it is normally grown with two other varieties of apple for pollination. It has won many awards and currently holds the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit (H4).
Most of the stock of 'Bramley's Seedling' commercially available is slightly different in its growth habit and other characteristics from the original tree, probably because of a chance mutation (or mutations) that occurred unnoticed over the years. Plants produced from the still-surviving (then 180-year-old) tree by tissue culture in 1990 have proved to be much more compact and free-branching than the widely available commercial stock. The cloning work was done by scientists at the University of Nottingham, because the original tree was suffering from old age and was under attack by honey fungus. Twelve of the cloned trees now grow in the University grounds; one was also planted beside the old tree at Southwell.
The first 'Bramley's Seedling' tree grew from pips planted by Mary Ann Brailsford when she was a young girl in her garden in Southwell, Nottinghamshire, UK in 1809. The tree in the garden was later included in the purchase of the cottage by a local butcher, Matthew Bramley in 1846. In 1856, a local nurseryman, Henry Merryweather asked if he could take cuttings from the tree and start to sell the apples. Bramley agreed but insisted that the apples should bear his name.
On 31 October 1862, the first recorded sale of a Bramley was noted in Merryweather's accounts. He sold "three Bramley apples for 2/- to Mr Geo Cooper of Upton Hall". On 6 December 1876, the Bramley was highly commended at the Royal Horticultural Society's Fruit Committee exhibition.
In 1900, the original tree was knocked over during violent storms; it survived, and is still bearing fruit two centuries after it was planted - however it was reported in 2016 that the tree was suffering from a fungal infection and may be dying. The variety is now the most important cooking apple in England and Wales, with 21.68 km², 95% of total culinary apple orchards in 2007. The Bramley is almost exclusively a British variety; however it is also grown by a few United States farms, and can be found in Canada, Australia and Japan.
The town of Southwell hosts many celebrations of the Bramley Apple including the Bramley Apple Festival in October. The Bramley Apple Inn is located just a few doors away from the original apple tree, which is considered to be a town treasure.
A blue plaque on the house in Southwell now commemorates the apple, and in 2009 a window commemorating the 200th anniversary of the planting of the tree was installed in Southwell Minster.
Bramley apples from County Armagh enjoy Protected Geographical Indication status within the European Union. The apples have a tarter taste than those grown in England, and over 40,000 tonnes are produced annually.
Bramley apples work well in pies, cooked fruit compotes and salads, crumbles, and other dessert dishes. They are also used in a variety of chutney recipes, as well as in cider making. Whole Bramley apples, cored and filled with dried fruit, baked, and then served with custard is an inexpensive and traditional British pudding. Cooked apple sauce is the traditional accompaniment to roast pork. Hot apple sauce goes very well with ice cream.
Regardless of the dish, Bramley apples are generally cooked in the same basic way. First the fruit is peeled and then sliced, and the pieces covered in lemon juice (or some other acidic juice) to stop them turning brown. Sugar is usually added. In pies and crumbles, the fruit is simply covered with the topping and baked; the moisture in the apples is sufficient to soften them while cooking. The flavour may be spiced, according to taste, with cloves or cinnamon. To make apple sauce, the apples are sliced and then stewed with sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan.
'Bramley's Seedling' apples are favoured for producing a jelly which is very pale in colour. Because the tree is a heavy cropper and liable to glut, it is a fine candidate for the domestic production of fruit wine, alone or with other fruits, and cider.