Magazine article The Spectator

Comfort Eating

Magazine article The Spectator

Comfort Eating

Article excerpt

Food for thought

Why, oh why, at this time of year, as we enter upon the season of mellow fruitfulness and think of picking apples in English orchards, are the supermarkets stuffed with foreign substitutes? Earlier this month I conducted a survey at three of our local supermarkets, with the following results. Somerfield was selling seven varieties of dessert apples, of which three were from South Africa, two from New Zealand, one from France and one was English. Tesco did no better, offering one English apple among at least seven other varieties from five different countries. And the Co-op had no English apples at all. The vast majority of the apples for sale at all three shops were the New Zealand Braeburn, the South African Granny Smith and the cleverly misnamed Golden Delicious. More English apples, Coxes for instance, may be available in the shops next month, but there are plenty of homegrown varieties which ripen from August onwards.

I know what the big outlets will say: we have to stock the varieties which are commercial, they must be recognised by our customers, the apples must have a shiny skin and be of the same size, etc. But they should be ashamed of themselves for failing to support and encourage the wider growing of English apples. The Brogdale Horticultural Trust in Kent grows over 2,300 varieties in its orchards, for heaven's sake.

I look forward to a visit to Brogdale, which has the largest collection of fruit trees (pears, berries, currants and stone fruit, as well as apples) in the world. It also provides a Fruit Identification Service, and I am grateful to Dr Joan Morgan, described as a pomologist and author of The New Book of Apples, who has just told me that the delicious, reddish apple of which this year we have a record crop of well over a hundred from one small tree is Discovery. (Our 'orchard' consists of three other trees: a Bramley, a russet of some sort, which has produced no fruit this year, and what my wife says is an Ellison's Orange.) Those who are thinking of putting in a few trees at home could do no better than contact Brogdale (01795 591491) to learn about cordons, grafting on dwarf rootstock and cross-pollination. There are apples with appealing names such as Ten Commandments, Red Devil, Hoary Morning and Bloody Ploughman, and any number of Pearmains, Pippins, Codlins and Biffins. …

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