Charles Campion: Rejoice and enjoy the variety of a native speciality

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The Independent Online

There can be no better news than the tidings that we are going to have an exceptionally good season for apples.

While the supermarket buyer's insistence on uniformity and ever-increasing shelf life at the expense of flavour may have reduced us to a handful of different strawberry varieties, there is still a decent range of different British apples.

The season started with the Discovery, a bold green apple with a red blush – sweet and crisp. Another "early" is the James Grieve – very juicy. Then there is the Blenheim Orange, tart enough to keep until Christmas; and the Worcester Pearmain with firm sweet flesh. The Russet has that strange papery rough skin and incredible depth of flavour. And Cox's Orange Pippin, an apple so crisp that the best way of testing for ripeness is to shake it beside your ear and listen to the pips rattling within.

In the days when every large house had an orchard, it made sense to have a range of different apple trees, if you had planted several of the same variety they would all crop together and fruit could be wasted. Thank goodness that apple trees grow old gracefully, as we are finding that classic old varieties are coming back into fashion.

Every year Worcestershire County Council commissions a nursery to grow on rare local fruit trees for selling in the Autumn at a bargain price.

Last year we planted a King Charles Pearmain and this year I have my name down for a Pitmaston Pineapple. This is a smallish, nondescript, yellowish apple right up until the moment when you bite into it ... then your mouth floods with the acid-sweet tang of a pineapple – it's a revelation.

It also delivers a level of pure pleasure that the French Golden Delicious, Ida Red, and imported Granny Smiths from the supermarket cannot match.

A good apple season means more people eating more British apples and that means a better future for our orchards.

Next time you are flogging round the supermarket doing the weekly shop, pause in the fruit department, pick up the bag of apples and make this the week when you check out the place of origin before buying. There is no reason for us to import apples until we have finished our own bumper crop, some of which will keep well into the New Year.

Charles Campion is a former chef, now a food writer and author

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