U Lidmanů apple tree, a prized source of strudel, named Czech ‚Tree of the Year‘

U Lidmanů apple tree, photo: Nadace Partnerství / Marek Olbrzymek

For the first time in history, the coveted title of Czech ‘Tree of the Year’ has gone to one bearing fruit: a humble apple tree in the courtyard of a village inn near the Polish border. The U Lidmanů inn in the village of Machovská Lhota, in a valley by the Bor Mountain, has been in continuous operation since the late 19th century. The courtyard apple tree is of the tart Kožená Reneta variety, beloved by locals as a source of shade in the summer, and strudel in the autumn.

The newly crowned Czech ‘Tree of the Year’ – which bested a dozen other contenders in a nationwide poll – is not only the first fruit tree to take the title in the contest’s history but also the youngest. The U Lidmanů apple tree has only been standing for less than eight decades. Just like former innkeeper Jaroslav Lidman himself.

Photo: Nadace Partnerství / Marek Olbrzymek

“Well, my parents started renting this inn in the year 1945, and I was born here that October. And my parents always told me that was when my father planted this apple tree. The apples are quite nice, but they are rather tart!”

According to family lore, the tree did not bear fruit for the first few seasons. One patron recommended introducing some iron into the soil, so Mr Lidman’s father buried nails, interspersed among the roots, which did the trick.

Once an independent village, Machovská Lhota was incorporated into the town of Machov in 1949, but still comprise only some 70 households. The tree at the U Lidmanů inn has long been a local symbol of tradition and resilience – bearing fruit when other harvests are meagre, or so local legend has it.

The Lindman family bought the inn in 1950, but kept in place a damaged portrait of Franz Josef I. The previous owner, upon learning the Austro-Hungarian emperor had declared war, threw a pint at it, and incident recounted on a plaque proclaiming the portrait the “first casualty” of war.

Photo: Vladislava Wildová / Czech Radio

Current innkeeper, Petr Šturm, whose ancestor painted the portrait, said the idea to enter the Tree of the Year contest came from the head of a group that focuses on the region’s sustainable development. Its candidacy was enthusiastically backed by the community and growers in the Broumovsko protected landscape area.

“We have Mirka Soldánová, the project manager from the local action group Stolové hory, to thank. I didn’t even know about the contest. But it’s a lovely idea. It’s really about the atmosphere under the tree. The apples are best when baked – not for eating right off the tree.”

Apples of the Kožená Reneta variety are rather on the smaller side and their greenish white flesh rather on the sour side. While today, innkeeper Petr Šturm serves them in strudel, but also in a popular local dessert called Old Bohemian Knights – the recipe for which you can find below.

Meanwhile, the apple tree itself is now a contender for European Tree of the Year – an honour that a 400-year-old Czech tree of the Scots pine variety took in 2019.

Staročeské rytířské (Old Bohemian Knights), Lidman style

Ingredients: Half a kilo of grated apples and a few potatoes cooked in their skins; one egg from a happy hen; 125 grams of coarse flour; sugar, cinnamon and a pinch of salt; edible frying oil

Instructions: Peel the boiled potatoes and mix in the egg, flour and a pinch of salt to make a dough. Leave to rest in the fridge for a while. Divide the dough into 8 parts and roll out flat pancakes. Fill them with the apples and potatoes, mixed with sugar and cinnamon. Fold and press the edges. Fry them in hot oil until golden brown. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and a dollop of sour cream or whipped cream.

Authors: Brian Kenety , Vladislava Wildová
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