Moor Park Apricot

Why is there such a dispute between Mrs Norris and Dr Grant over the Moor Park Apricot tree? I think there is enough animosity between them so that even the most minor of issues turns into an argument. Mrs Norris hates to be challenged and Dr Grant does not hold in his thoughts either. Based on the dilapidations discussed below and Mrs Norris’ objection to the Grant’s style of living, it is understandable these two would argue over a fruit tree.

Here are possibilities from the archives:
a) The tree is indeed a Moor Park apricot, but has been given insufficient care by Mrs Norris to make it grow well and thrive….I can imagine her being stingy with the well-rotted manure….

b) The tree supplied by the nursery was not as described on its label (a practise that annoyingly, still occurs today…) and poor Sir Thomas was indeed imposed upon.

c) Though the Moor Park Apricot is known to be a good fruiting variety of apricot, with well flavored fruit, Dr Grant the epicurean par excellence, knows of another variety that is of superior taste etc, a plant of which we know nothing because it has not survived throouh the past two centuries. For example, Hannah Glasse in her recipe book, The Art of Cookery Made Pain and Easy (1747) refers to the Masculine apricot. This may be the same as the variety known as Red Masculine, which was a very old and well known variety in the 18th century.

Stehpen Switzer in his book The Practical Fruit Gardener (1724) wrote of all the apricots he knew:

The Masculine or early Apricock is a pretty little Fruit of a good Sugared Juice; but being small, is not so much esteemed as the large Dutch, Orange, Turkey, Roman or Common.

The Moor Park was introduced into England in 1760 (it is, of course not a native to the cold climes of England) and was named for the estate where it first successfully fruited see below).

These other apricots do not appear in Mrs Glasse’s book, but obviously existed. Perhaps Dr Grant has experience of these? We don’t know

d) or it could be yet another Austen Family in-joke….

There is, IMHO, no real answer to the puzzle. I am afraid I have no figures for the price an 18th century plant nursery would charge for the tree.

There was a Royal Horticultural Society award of merit for the Moor Park apricot (it’s a dead link now- ed). It gives its characteristics, including its drawbacks. I’ve never grown it or knowingly eaten it so cannot comment on its flavor, but I trust the RHS ;-). I understand it is not favored by the professional fruit industry (and here my source is the managing director of World Wide Fruit PLC) because it is rather a soft and delicate fruit and is, therefore, hard to transport successfully throughout the globe.