The British apple season is now officially underway and there are many delicious varieties to savour. To celebrate it we talk to local grower James Simpson about what’s good to eat and cook now and why the general public’s appetite for apples is getting bigger . . .
The end of September signals the start of the British apple season and with plenty of tasty indigenous varieties to bite into and enjoy, it’s time to start looking out for them when you’re next out shopping and eschew exports.
Popular varieties include pippin, gala, cox, braeburn and jazz but you should also keep your eyes peeled for other less well-known offerings including Discovery, Worcester Pearmain and Lord Lambourne. Due to an industry initiative most of them should now boast special stickers displaying a Great British Apples logo so you can be sure you are buying British.
And it appears that the nation’s appetite for British apples is getting bigger as according to new research from English Apples and Pears, nine out of ten shoppers who expressed a preference (89 per cent) said they would buy British apples whenever possible.
“This is a huge vote of confidence for British growers,” said Steven Munday, chief executive of the producers’ body English Apples and Pears. “As Brexit beckons, it appears shoppers here are actively supporting British produce and, in particular, they are looking for British apples in the shops.”
Mr Munday said that Britain’s retailers have been encouraged to support the country’s apple growers by using the English Apples & Pears logo on packs and at point of sale. “Better display and identification of apples as British in the shops were also key concerns for consumers, who said they would buy more apples if they could easily see that they come from Britain.”
One of the area’s local growers and spokesperson for the UK apple industry is James Simpson, a grower at Adrian Scripps at Five Oak Green, near Tonbridge.
He told us that harvesting their early season varieties such as Discovery happens from early to mid-August and then later in September they start picking varieties such as Worcester, Cox and Gala.
Once they have been picked they get put in special wooden bins then go to Scripps’ packing facility where they are graded. “Nowadays that can almost happen immediately,” explains James “so apples that are on the trees today, could be in the supermarkets within two to three days.”
He goes onto add that there is ‘a lot of interest and activity’ currently because of the range of varieties available here in Kent and in the UK in general and that the season stretches right into early next year.
“Come February and March there’s still a strong demand for English apples, so then we’re able to get really good quality apples out to stores and sold to customers.”
He also revealed that Scripps were currently ‘running trials with 35-40 different apple varieties’
“We’ve got Opel, Ariane and a new Gala Sport that we’re looking at,” James continues. “What we’re trying to do in our trials are find varieties with flavour and texture that will excite the customer. There’s a lot of talk about the historical flavours and textures that exist with traditional apples, what we’re trying to do is bring something back that actually makes the consumer sit up and think ‘oh that’s absolutely lovely, I want more of that’.
“Personally I think that flavours are getting more complex within apples. It’s like discussing fine wines with talk of ‘pear drop’ overtones, ‘sweet’ undertones and that ‘mellow flavour with that hop of something just a little bit tangy’. I think that’s the way we’ve got to look at apples, we’ve got to create some excitement and think it’s the flavour that creates the excitement.”
James Simpson puts down the current trend for discovering more varieties and taste sensations of apples down to a simple fact: “Britain really does produce some of the tastiest apples in the world, there’s nothing better than picking one up in the middle of the harvest and eating it immediately off the tree.”
Find out more at www.greatbritishapples.co.uk