Although he didn't give his source, Jack Staub quoted the phrase “exquisitely homely” when describing this famous old apple (75 Remarkable Fruits, 2008).
Exquisitely homely... How true. If there was any fruit that (even when grown to an ideal form) would never attract the attention of those accustomed to the aesthetics of a perfect red apple, Ashmead’s Kernal is it. That's part of its appeal. Growers of this heirloom seem particularly pleased by its delightful juxtaposition of complex flavors, and humble ugliness.
Ashmead's Kernal comes from England. The following account on the history of this apple comes from Robert Hogg’s British Pomology, published in 1851:
"This delightful Apple was raised at Gloucester, about the beginning of the last century, by Dr. Ashmead, an eminent physician of that city. The original tree existed within the last few years in what had originally been Dr. Ashmead's garden, but was destroyed in consequence of the ground being required for building. It stood on the spot now occupied by Clarence Street. It is difficult to ascertain the exact period when it was raised; but the late Mr. Hignell an eminent orchardist at Tewkesbury, in Gloucestershire, informed me, that the first time he ever saw the fruit of Ashmead's Kernel, was from a tree in the nursery of Mr. Wheeler, of Gloucester, in the year 1796, and that the tree in question had been worked from the original, and was at that time upwards of thirty years old."
"From this it may be inferred that the original tree had attained some celebrity by the middle of last century. The Ashmead's Kernel has long been a favourite Apple in the gardens of West Gloucestershire, but it does not seem to have been known in other parts of the country. Like the Ribston Pippin, it seems to have remained long in obscurity, before its value was generally appreciated; it is not even enumerated in the catalogue of the extensive collection which was cultivated by Miller and Sweet, of Bristol, in 1790. I find it was cultivated in the Brompton Park Nursery in 1780, at which time it was received from Mr. Wheeler, nurseryman, of Gloucester, who was author of The Botanist's and Gardener's Dictionary, published in 1763."
Ashmead’s Kernal was introduced into the United States in the 1950’s.