Ancient fruit of kings and Victorian explorers

Apples originated in the Middle East more than 4,000 years ago. They have been in the UK as fruits and vines since the Roman occupation. Specially cultivated apple varieties spread across Europe to France, arriving in England at around the time of the Norman conquest in 1066.

Henry VIII instructed his fruiterer, Richard Harris, to establish the first large scale orchards at Teynham, Kent, and to scour the known world for the best varieties.

The Celtic word for apple, abhall, persists in many place-names, and some towns and cities have particular associations with fruit trees. Norwich was described in Tudor times as "either a city in an orchard or an orchard in a city".

A medium-sized eating apple contains about 40 calories. Excluding the peel and core from the diet almost halves the amounts of vitamin C and dietary fibre, but makes very little difference to the sugar content.

Washing the skin to remove any contaminants is advisable.

The Institute for Food Research has found that there is an unsatisfied demand for a UK-bred apple that would be more acidic than anything currently grown here.

Victorian explorers found new varieties all over the world and brought them to Brogdale, in Kent, so developing its orchards and gardens. Brogdale now houses the National Fruit Collection of more than 4,000 varieties, with over 30 acres of orchards.

Cox's Orange Pippin accounts for over half of the UK acreage of dessert apples. It is thought to be an 18th century seedling, which originated in Colnbrook, Berkshire, related to Ribston Pippin, raised from seed by the brewer Richard Cox, at Knaresborough Hall in Yorkshire.

The UK apple market is worth more than pounds 320m - but only about 35 per cent of the eating apples sold in the UK are home-grown.

Surveys by the Institute of Food Research suggest that women in Norfolk between the ages of 24-34 eat the most apples - about one a day. Young adult men eat very few apples.

Source: Institute of Food Research

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