Lovers of apple, majority of which is imported from South Africa, Europe and Asia, commonly known as temperate/Mediterranean apples, need not go far anymore, as a new variety has been developed in Nigeria.The new variety-Bell apple is a unique and amazing tropical apple variety now produced in Nigeria, although still relatively new to the market. According to the Pioneer, Bell Apple Farming in Nigeria, Akinyemi Oluwagbenga, an Agronomist, Bell apple is another apple variety, which grows quite well in the humid tropical climate in parts of Nigeria. Basically, it is bigger in size, much more attractive, with higher juice content, a unique aroma and shape, with sweet and sour taste. It is highly nutritious and medicinal in nature. This is according to scientific researches as contained in the Scientific World Journal, Health Sciences Journal and Food Chemistry. He noted that the new variety is presently sold locally in states like Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, Edo, Lagos States, amongst others.
“The ripe Bell apples are eaten raw. The slightly unripe ones are used for making jelly and pickles. You can create sweet jams and preserves from it. Red and white wines are made from Bell apples and other valuable products such as juice, cider, dried apple snack, chutney and others. Bell apples have compounds with antidiabetic potential. It has a strong antihyperglycaemic property. It has high antioxidants and polyphenols known to combat inflammation. It has xanthine oxidase inhibitors, which may assist in the prevention of cataract formation.
Speaking further, Akinyemi said the apple trees are strictly tropical and need a humid climate, with an annual rainfall of 60 inches (152 cm) or more, adding that the tree grows vigorously on a range of soil types from sand to heavy clay and tolerates moderately acid soil. It also reacts unfavourably to highly alkaline situations.
Its seeds are big and brown in colour and germinate readily. “Many sprout on the ground under the tree, while seed propagation is common, superior types are multiplied by budding on to their own seedlings. Bell apple trees can be spaced 5-7m apart in the fields prepared and enriched as for any other crop, and they require little care, except for elimination of weeds and periodic application of manures (organic or inorganic) and plentiful irrigation in very dry weather.
“The ripe apples are eaten raw, that is, it is edible. The slightly unripe ones are used for making jelly and pickles. You can create sweet jams and preserves from it. Preserves will take hours to make based on the apples high water content, but it can be done with ample patience. You can chop raw apples for use in salads. Red and white wines are made from Bell apples, and other valuable products such as juice, cider, apple dried snack, chutney and concentrate.
He revealed that farmers could make money in ten weeks raising bell apple seeds into seedlings for sale. “The seedlings production is designed to train and empower people. The production can be done conveniently at home. No need of buying NPK fertilizer. You can make use of manure from horse, cattle, and goats, which are free.