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English apple varieties seem to be losing sales to those bred down under, but this is not necessarily a bad thing

apple-basketLast Monday was National Apple Day in the UK.  The story may have escaped your attention, but it came amid a report about food waste which suggested that forty percent of apples in Britain are wasted.  Hot on the heels of that one came a story that traditional British varieties of apple have been losing out to slickly promoted imported ones.  It makes sense to give apples their national day in late October at the height of their season, and it seems to have been an exceptional one in the UK, thanks to a good summer followed by some rain.

We divide Britain’s many hundreds of varieties into two categories.  There are the ‘eaters,’ such as Cox’s Orange Pippin and Granny Smiths, that tend to be sweeter, and there are the ‘cookers,’ bigger and sharper-tasting, of which Bramley’s is the most famous.  But sales of UK varieties, especially of eating apples, have been falling as we buy more and more foreigners, including Braeburn and Gala – and now Royal Gala – which hale from New Zealand, as does the recently developed Jazz.  Another popular variety, Pink Lady, also comes from down under.  Actually Jazz and Pink Lady are really trademarked brand names rather than varieties.  Jazz is Scifresh and Pink Lady is Cripps Pink.  They succeed because they are more consistent and reliable than rivals, in that more of them are produced to the size, shape and colour to enter Class I, which is what sells in supermarkets.  And people like their apples sweeter and crunchier these days.

I like most apples.  Along with mango it’s probably my favourite fruit.  I use apples as the base for fruit compotes incorporating various berries and sometimes plums.  I make apple and bramble pies and crumble and apple pie with cinnamon (using many varieties), and apple sauce (using Bramley’s).  I like Sainsbury’s Basic Apples which are nicely firm and acidic, and also happen to be the cheapest.  There were none last week, and I hope this absence is only temporary.  I don’t feel unduly patriotic about eating British varieties; I’m more concerned to eat the ones I like best.

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3 Responses

  1. Buen apetito! So long as the old varieties survive as genetic insurance-policies.

  2. I have had an experience with apples in a roundabout sort of way. Over twenty years ago I was a regular weekly visitor to a local Cider Tavern. The landlord was an amazing character and one of his many enterprises was to plant apple trees in order to eventually brew his own cider. The tree planting took place with a ceremony involving the local Morris Men and the Taverner’s (customers including me). This was not just a few trees, over fifty trees were planted alongside the Tavern. Twenty years later and a very nice cider is served named after the Landlord. Every year in early January a tree blessing ceremony is performed. The local Morris Men arrive and dance around the trees giving the tree trunks a good thrashing with their wooden clubs. This is designed to wake the trees up and ensure they blossom to produce an excellent crop. Apparently it works because the trees react to the slight ‘ damage ‘ and in order to keep the species ‘ going ‘ they do produce an excellent offspring, apples and their seeds. Cheers !

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