The tastiest British apples

26 September 2011 | 0 Comments

The British apple season has just started, but do you know your Bramley from your Pippin?

A 2010 Daily Telegraph article indicated that a mere 16% of apples sold in UK supermarkets are British, while a shocking 70% of all the apples bought in the UK are imported. Given the heightened concerns around food miles, however, more and more people are turning to the delights that are British apples, of which there are hundreds of varieties,

We're in the middle of apple season now, and this year we can expect a bumper crop of apples thanks to the unusually hot spring, while the cool summer means that they will be extra red and juicy (at least something good has come from the summer washout).

New research by the National Trust has pinpointed that two-fifths of people find it difficult to pick out a British apple, while some apples, such as Granny Smith, confused 61% of people into thinking they were British when in fact they originated from Australian.

In the UK, 128,000 tonnes of eating apples were produced in 2010, which can be correctly identified by the British flag you should find on fruit labels. With 53% of British people eating at least one apple a week, it pays to know your British Galas from your Blenheim Orange, especially if you want to get optimum flavour all year round.

Here's a quick guide to the best picking/buying times for different apple varieties:

September: British Gala, Cox, Pitmason Pineapple

October: Jazz, Orange Pippin, British Braeburn, Blenheim Orange, Newton Wonder

Up to December: Egremont Russett

Kept in the right conditions, apples can last for months! If you’re looking for an apple fix this month, here are some of the best places to go:

Tullen's Farm, Sussex

Originally founded in the 1950s, Tullen's is one of the most well-respected pick your own farms in the country. While there has been a steady decline in the number of pick your own farms over the years, Tullen's was bought in 2002 by Ivor and Linda Riverston in a bid to re-educate local consumers about “real apples”.

Tullen's grows and sells old favourites including Orange Pippin, Bramley and Worcester Pearmain but has also been working hard to reintroduce old varieties. In the last two years, they have planted Blenheim Orange, Egremont Russett, Ellison's Orange, Laxton's Superb, Lord Derby, Lord Lambourne and Spartan.

You can buy the apples and freshly pressed apple juice at the farm shop or local farmers’ markets.

Park Fruit Farm, Essex

First planted in 1935, Park Fruit Farm is one of the oldest in the country. They grow 55 varieties of fruit, of which over 40 are apples.

From the farm shop you can get the apples as well as juice from a range which includes both the familiar and unfamiliar such as Adam's Pearmain, Ashmead's Kearnal, Cox, Crispin, Gala, Elstar, Laxton's Epicure and Lord Lambourne.

Maynard's, Sussex

Maynard's Farm on Windmill Hill is a 22 hectare fruit farm in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with fruit doing so well here thanks to the valley shielding it from frost pockets.

The farm is a family run business, owned by David and Mary for the past 50 years, son Tom now also works there full time with help from other members of the family.

Estival is the most popular apple for Maynard's, which they sell in abundance along with the juice that is made from it, but they also stock newer varieties such as Rajka and Pinora. And old favourite the Bramley apple is always in plentiful supply.

Yorkshire Orchards, Yorkshire

Yorkshire Orchards is a small family run commercial orchard that aims to produce a wide variety of specialist apples.

Based near the village of Wiberfoss in York, Yorkshire Orchards has over 100 different varieties of apple from the traditional to the very modern.  They have reintroduced old classics such as Ashmead’s Kernel and Adams Pearmain as well as offering new varieties including Fiesta, Jumbo and Scrumptious.

New varieties are added every year and despite being a relatively young orchard (2002) more and more trees are maturing and producing heavy crops.  Yorkshire Orchards is not aiming to compete with the supermarkets in terms of quantity but are looking to give customers a wider choice of apples than is currently on offer.

It’s not just eating apples they produce - keep your eyes peeled for cooking, cider and crab apples.

Lathcoats Farm, Essex

The Taylor family have been growing apples at Lathcoats Farm since the early 1900’s and currently Stephen and Phil Taylor are the big bosses.

They are big on working in tune with the environment so pheromone traps and disrupters are used in the orchards to control caterpillar pests.  Hedgerows and grasslands are managed to attract beneficial insects which help control pests and minimises the need for sprays.

Lathcoats Farm grows over 40 varieties of apples including Essex’s very own Chelmsford Wonder, Queen and D’Arcy Spice and Discovery and rare varieties such as Cornish Gilliflower.

If you love apples but don’t have space to grow your own tree, you can take advantage of Lathcoats Farm’s Rent a Tree scheme.  You will have access to your very own tree and be able to see your crop develop over the season and enjoy all the fresh fruit as well, of course!

Mole End Farms, Kent

Mole End Farms was established in the early nineties by Paul and Sarah Wood. It started out as four and a half acres of mature but neglected conference pears and wild flower meadows in Chart Sutton. 

Fast forward a decade and Mole End Farms now grows top quality organic fruit on approximately 100 acres across five sites in Kent – Cranbook, Wateringbury, Marden, Goudhurst and Chart Sutton.

Their principle aim is to produce top quality fruit in a fully sustainable manner with the absolute minimum impact on the surrounding environment.  Rather than using chemicals, the farm uses seaweed extracts to improve soil quality and controls weeds through mowing and mulching.

The trusted Bramley apple finds its way into the orchards at Mole End Farm as well as Grenadier, an early season cooking apple.  Ready for you to chomp your way through are Saturn, Falstaff and Spartan to name just a few. 

During the UK apple season, you can find Mole End Farms’ apples in Whole Foods who have branches across London.  They are also used in a number of fruit box schemes.

Additional reporting by Kirsty Page

Also worthy of your attention:

Matt Tebbutt's apple and almond tart

Henry Dimbleby's upside-down pear tart

My top five tips for cooking with apples


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