This section is from the book "The Fruit Manual: Containing The Descriptions And Synonyms Of The Fruits And Fruit Trees Of Great Britain", by Robert Hogg. Also available from Amazon: The Fruit Manual.
Fruit small, two inches in diameter, round or oblato-cylindrical, sometimes roundish, even and regular in its outline. Skin, entirely covered with yellowish brown russet, except on the sunny side, where it has a bright deep red cheek, glossy as if it were varnished. Eye, with convergent segments, closed or half open, set in a shallow depression. Stamens, median; tube, short, funnel-shaped.
Stalk, short, generally not extending beyond the base, slender. Flesh, yellow, tender, juicy, sweet, and richly flavoured. Cells, sometimes only four, obovate; axile.
I received this, as well as most of the Herefordshire apples, from my friend Dr. Henry Bull, of Hereford.
Fruit, below medium size, two inches and a quarter wide, and over two inches high; short Pearnain shaped, smooth and even in its outline, narrowing abruptly from the middle to the crown, which gives the upper part of the fruit a snouted figure. Skin, thick and membranous, shining, pale lemon on the shaded side, but with a fine bright red cheek on the side next the sun, which frequently extends over two-thirds of the surface of the fruit, and the whole is thickly strewed with minute russety points. Eye, rather large, and closed, with long and broad leaf-like segments, placed in a round, even, and saucer-like, slightly plaited basin. Stalk, a mere fleshy knob, but occasionally, and very rarely, a quarter of an inch long and woody, inserted in a very shallow cavity, lined with pale brown russet. Flesh, white, tender, not very juicy, brisk, and slightly sweet.
A culinary apple of second-rate quality, which takes well, and is in use during December and January.
It is much grown in the Gloucestershire orchards, and received its name from having been raised at Corse Hill, near Gloucester, where the seedling tree is still existing. I received it from T. Wintle, Esq., of Gloucester.
Corset Hill. See Corse Hill. Cosset Hill. See Corse Hill.
The large oblong five-ribbed and five-sided apple, with a green skin and sometimes a brownish tinge on the side next the sun, an open eye and short stalk, is no doubt synonymous with the Catshead; and this accounts for George Lindley saying they are the same variety. But there are two other varieties of Costard which are undoubtedly distinct, and these are the Herefordshire or Dadnor Costard and the Gloucestershire Costard, which will be found described under these names.
The Costard is one of our oldest English apples. It is mentioned under the name of "Poma Costard" in the fruiterers' bills of Edward the First, in 1292, at which time it was sold for a shilling a hundred. The true Costard is now rarely to be met with, but at an early period it must have been very extensively grown, for the retailers of it were called Costardmongers, an appellation now transformed into Coster-mongers. It is mentioned by William Lawson, in 1597, who, in his quaint isiyle, says, "Of your apple-trees you shall finde difference in growth. A good pipping will grow large, and a Costard-tree : stead them on the north side of your other apples, thus being placed, the least will give sunne to the rest, and the greatest will shroud their fellowes."
Modern authors make the Costard synonymous with the Catshead, chiefly, I think, on the authority of Mr. George Lindley, who has it so in the "Guide to the Orchard"; but this is evidently an error. All the early authors who mention both varieties regard them as distinct. Parkinson describes two varieties of Costard - the "Gray" and the "Greene." Of the former he says, "It is a good great apple, somewhat whitish on the outside, and abideth the winter. The Green Costard is like the other, but greener on the outside continually." Ray describes both the Catshead and Costard as distinct, and Leonard Meager enumerates three varieties of Costard in his list - the white, grey, and red.
Some etymologists, and Dr. Johnson among the number, consider this name to be derived from Cost, a head; but what similarity there is beween this apple and a head, more than in any other variety, must puzzle any one to discover. Is it not more probable that it is derived from Costatus (Anglice, costate, or ribbed), on account of the prominent ribs or angles on its sides ? I think this a much more likely derivation.