Consuming Issues: Why English apples are the pick of the crop
Saturday 02 October 2010
By now, you've probably heard that this year's English apples will be particularly fine, with an almost perfect balance of sweetness and acidity and an especially bright skin. Not quite as delicious as the apples of 1970, experts say, but the kind of crop that comes around only once every seven years or so.
While these fruity spheres are being picked from orchards, supermarket shelves will be laden with shiny green intruders from Australia, New Zealand and the US. We eat far fewer home-grown apples than imports, even though the wet, sunny orchards of southern England are ideally suited to apple production.
This, though, isn't going to be a denunciation of grocery chains for browbeating farmers until the last penny of profit has been wrung out of them, nor for grading out 30 per cent of edible fruit because it is too small, too big or too blemished, nor because pollution from ships and planes criss-crossing the world to supply fruit all year round is damaging the climate and, ultimately, the ability of people in those producer countries to feed themselves; although they are responsible for all these things.
Instead it's a story of hope, about how English apple growers are undergoing a revival, about how you, me, we, have been buying more English apples, and their future is now as rosy as the red-tinged skin of a Cox's Orange Pippin, the subtle lord of the 2,000 varieties grown in fields, gardens and orchards.
First the background: Department of Environment figures show the proportion of home-grown apples tumbled year after year in the 1990s and 2000s as supermarkets sourced more foreign apples all year round. In 1989, before the fall, 49 per cent of apples were home-grown. By 1995 that figure had dipped to 40 per cent, before plummeting to 23 per cent in 2003, the low point.
A few years after green groups started fussing about the decline, doing surveys showing the pitiful number of domestic apples on shelves, the trend started to reverse and sales of English apples rose. Last year, according to Adrian Barlow, chief executive of trade body English Apples & Pears, British growers sold more apples to UK supermarkets than in any year since 2000.
This autumn, English Apples & pears forecasts a healthy crop of 200,000 tonnes and strong sales once more – because shoppers are looking out for shrinkwrapped packs bearing the Union Flag. "We have seen a dramatic revival in the industry in the last five years," says Mr Barlow, welcoming "a huge upsurge in consumers seeking local produce".
While a decade ago only one in four apples was English, last year it was one in three, 34 per cent.
"We could go to 70 per cent [which would double current production] and still allow imports of those varieties we cannot grow: Golden Delicious, Granny Smith and Pink Lady," says Mr Barlow.
But first, he urges, public bodies must enshrine in their procurement contracts the buying of English produce. With public spending cuts looming, that may not happen, despite the best intentions of the Environment Secretary, Caroline Spelman, who has praised hospitals that buy local food.
Shoppers can still help, by buying English apples of all shapes when in season (from August to December, roughly) and freshly squeezed juice from orchards at farmers' markets, butchers and delicatessens.
Not just because it's the right thing to do (though it is), but because, in their crispness, flavour and subtlety, English apples cannot be bettered. This year, because the seasons have been kind, with a warm blast of summer sun following winter snow, they are especially sweet.
Heroes and villains: Pret gets even better
Hero: Pret a Manger
The sandwich chain is one of the few to list calories next to all its freshly prepared products. This week it stopped importing chicken from countries with lower animal welfare standards, and moved to 100 per cent British chicken from Suffolk – which have 20 per cent more space to roam than normal factory-farmed hens.
The ticket agency says it has nothing to do with the price of new, fluctuating "market-based" tickets for gigs at the 02 arena in London, Britain's biggest rock venue, but it seems happy to help promoters extract the maximum amount of money from concert-goers, rather than setting a fixed, lower price for all tickets, which used to happen.
- 1 I was a Woman Against Feminism too
- 2 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 3 Students offered grants if they tweet pro-Israeli propaganda
- 4 The Tory donor whose firm is one of Britain’s biggest tax avoiders - with HMRC's blessing
- 5 John Barrowman praised for Commonwealth Games opening ceremony gay kiss
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Massive rise in sale of British arms to Russia
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains
iJobs Money & Business
competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This really is a fantastic chance to joi...
£40000 - £60000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: CXL, Triple Po...
£60000 - £75000 per annum + BONUS + BENEFITS: Harrington Starr: Business Anal...
Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Market Administrator (1st line Support, Bloomber...
Day In a Page
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony
A charming four-bedroom Oxfordshire cottage with oak floors and chunky-beamed ceilings, £465,000
A beautiful one-bed flat in a sought-after portered block, with access to Norland Square communal gardens
A one-bedroom flat within a Sixties school conversion with high-spec design and open-plan kitchen, close to Lambeth North Tube, £435,000
A 17th century four-bedroom house, with open fireplaces, cellar and pool, £600,000
A three-bedroom, coach house with luxury open-plan living space and contemporary breakfast bar