The return of the first apple tree planted in the iconic Company’s Garden in the late 1650s is a remarkable story, made possible through a partnership between Tru-Cape, Hortgro and the Cape Heritage Fund.
More than a decade ago, Tru-Cape quality assurance manager, Henk Griessel and his colleague, Buks Nel, the company’s new variety expert started researching the history of apples. This research culminated in a book entitled Apples in the Early Days at The Cape. According to historical records, the Witte Wijnappel was the first apple picked in the Company’s Garden on 17 April 1662.
What happened to the tree after 1652?
After a period of exhaustive research, the duo tracked down the Witte Wijnappel tree in the Netherlands. Witte Wijnappel budwood, from which a new tree could be grown was imported, and after a lengthy stay in quarantine, was ready to plant.
“This is a remarkable story and the city is so honoured to be a part of it. It reminds us once more of the rich heritage of the Company’s Garden, but also of the importance of the fruit industry,” said Councillor Zahid Badroodien, mayoral committee member for Community Services and Health. The Witte Wijnappel tree will take its place among other heritage varieties at the axis of the irrigation channel in the Company’s Garden.
The tree-planting ceremony is not coincidental, as Tru-Cape notes and celebrates 17 April as the official birth of the apple industry.
“The replanting of the Witte Wijnappel is a historic moment in the South African fruit industry, so it is fitting that it happened on this particular day. It would not have been possible without the extensive efforts of Henk Griessel and Buks Nel, veterans in the industry who are passionate about what they do. We are extremely proud of their work,’ said Tru-Cape fruit marketing managing director, Roelf Pienaar.
“We are really proud to be part of this initiative to bring the historical plant material back to South African soil. With this gesture we honour the founding roots of the apple industry some 357 years ago. Today, the impact on, and contribution of the apple industry to, the modern rural economies of the Western Cape and the rest of the country is vast. We contribute to rural development by creating more than 61 000 jobs and a further 243 649 dependents are impacted by the success of the industry. The industry ensures food security, infrastructure development and foreign trade. It has a global standing and is considered a leading player with regards to quality and taste of our products, ethical trade and environmentally sustainable production practices,” added Hortgro’s executive director, Anton Rabe.
The City of Cape Town, Tru-Cape, Hortgro and the Cape Heritage Fund will collectively manage the maintenance and development of the apple tree. – City of Cape Town.