We all know the famous phrase ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away’. Well, do you know how? It’s probably not the nutritional value of apples, although they do contain vitamins and minerals considered beneficial to health. It’s more likely the direction in which you throw the apple when the doctor comes to the door that keeps him or her away!
There is no doubt, though, that the humble apple is one of this country’s most-eaten fruits, and that our climate is well suited to growing them. A recent trip to the national fruit collection at Brogdale in Kent reminded me that there are more than 2,000 varieties of apples growing there, and although they’re not all commercial, there are enough that are native to this country to ensure we have plenty of choice when it comes to home-grown products. I’m sure if enough of us took it upon ourselves to eat British, the producers would continue with the increased energy they presently seem to be putting into the production of this sustainable crop.
Simply put, there are two kinds of apples: one is best used for cooking and the other for eating. This country is arguably the leading producer in terms of quality of cookers. August until late November is the season to pick British apples, many being put into storage to last through to April when next season’s early crop becomes available.
My favourite eaters are Discovery, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Egremont Russet, Jazz, Worcester Pearmain and Spartan. All are British grown and you can choose from rustic green, striped or deep red skins with aromatic, juicy, crisp and superb flavours. Just make sure that you choose British when they’re available!
It was while sitting in my restaurant, Turner’s at Butlins in Bognor Regis, last week that I realised just how good English Bramleys are. The apple pie that I had for dinner was, he says modestly, probably one of the best I have ever eaten. The pastry, thick and butter laden, balanced perfectly with the tartness of Bramleys and the sweetness of the brown sugar; and when smothered in double cream, I was in paradise! Bramleys are great cooking apples with a large, flat and somewhat irregular shape, a skin that is green and sometimes lightly striped red, while the flesh is white with a green tinge, coarse, juicy and
slightly acidic. It is this tartness that cuts through the rich fattiness of roast pork or duck to make each combination the perfect marriage on a plate.
Sadly our orchards have been in decline for a while, with more than half being
‘grubbed out’ since the 1950s. Happily, though, the recent promotion of local foods and farms has prompted a renewed surge in orchard fruit growing. So buy British, and we’ll all benefit!