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The English Apple Man


29th Sep 2023 - English Apples, an industry in crisis, and a consumer responds!

On Sunday evening I watched Countryfile which featured the crisis facing British Apple Growers


On Sunday evening, I received an email from Sue a lady in Manchester responding to Richard Budd, one of the three growers visited by Countryfile presenters.


Dear Richard,


I am watching the item on Countryfile right now and am horrified that you are treated so badly by supermarkets. For example, I couldn't believe my ears that Bramley's the best apple for baking ever, are having to be juiced because some eejit in, say, Tesco is deciding the consumer, me, doesn't want small ones, odd sized ones etc. Also that they are then not paying you a decent price. I am also becoming concerned about imports and why I don't see the varieties of pears and apples, I know are grown here, in the shops.


I am sure that I cannot be the only consumer that is sick of being told that I don't want this, that and the other by retailers who didn't even ask me. I wondered if you would be willing to correspond further on this with an end user like me so that I can learn what more I can do to support British fruit and veg. farmers, e.g. buying directly for example.


Kind Regards - Sue - from Manchester

Dear Sue,


Thank you for your email.


Returns from supermarkets have dwindled over the years and profits have declined so investment can't be made. Until recently you would not have got growers to do pieces like this as the threat of delisting and not selling the crop was very real... it's still there, but I'm now at a point of not caring as I'm making a loss, if I get delisted then I will repurpose the buildings in a diversification project and rip out the rest of the fruit and put it in my arable business.


Please keep buying English apples but buy them from farm shops and greengrocers if you can. Unfortunately very little of the English crop is sold outside the supermarkets - a few percent... Going forward as growers we need to keep speaking out and consumers like your good self need to complain to supermarkets about lack of English fruit.


All the best,




In the Countryfile Video the apple story starts about 9 minutes into the video.


Click on BBC Countryfile Harvest


Below - Sue returns my email sent to her on Monday confirming action taken etc.


Hi John,


"Sorry for the delay in reply. I have been at work today and I have only just seen your email. I am happy for you to use my first name and you can say I am from Manchester if you would like.


One other thing for you if you wanted to use it. I have just come back from holiday on the North Yorkshire coast. Whilst I was there I went in the Tesco in Filey and bought some apples I had never come across before called Early Windsor. They were delicious and exactly what I like - crunchy and slightly tart. But it got me thinking why have I never come across them before? Why aren't there more English varieties in supermarkets? What happens to most of them? Why can't I get other varieties of pears than Conference, (which I don't like)?


In terms of Bramley's you can add my exasperated thoughts on the ludicrous diktats as regards that particular variety.


"Although I know you can eat Bramley's as they are, most people use them to make desserts and cakes. So what barn pot supermarket buyer decided it matters what size they are? They are going to cut up for cooking not put on show. They didn't ask anyone who uses them that's for certain. I know they do this with lots of fruit and veg but honestly who cares apart from them? If I was growing them myself I wouldn't be chucking them for the reasons the supermarkets give, so why are they being so fussy?



The English Apple Man Comments:



Sue from Manchester asks why we cannot buy more home grown varieties like Early Windsor, and I understand her frustration, but this variety and a number of other's are 'niche' varieties, grown in modest quantities and only available for a relative short period of the season. In most cases these niche varieties will be sold under a collective name. like English Red Dessert, Traditional, et al.


The reason for this is to maintain an acceptable format on the shelves. There will always be the main varieties on display, either British or imported. across 12 months; Gala, Braeburn, (either British or imported) Granny Smith (mostly imported) Golden Delicious, (imported) Pink Lady, Jazz, (imported or home grown) Bramley, (British) Cox (either home grown or from New Zealand) - all available for 12 months of the year.


Early and second early British grown varieties: Discovery, Scrumptious, Worcester Pearmain, Early Windsor, Red Windsor, Spartan, Zari, Estivale, Egremont Russet, Crimson Crisp, all grown in limited volumes and therefore usually sold under 'collective brand packs', but with variety displayed on the bag. There is a new variety called Magic Star which will be increasingly available.


The brand varieties: Pink Lady & Jazz, and commodity varieties: Gala, Braeburn and Golden Delicious are the big sellers.




One of the newer varieties showing promise is Cabaret. This morning, The English Apple Man visited Nico Ionita - Farm Management Director for Organic grower Paul Ward's Mole End Farms to see Cabaret being harvested.


Origin: Cabaret originated from an open-pollinated cross between Saturn x Braeburn conducted in 1999 by Dalival, France. The variety was developed in the UK by J. R. Breach and entered commercial sales in 2016 as an exclusive variety for Tesco through Avalon Produce Ltd.


These Cabaret today in Kent were planted in the winter of 2020/2021 so this is the 'third leaf' term used to identify the number of growing years.


In the first leaf (summer) it is normal to take off any fruit to ensure the tree has all the energy it needs to grow. In the second leaf, a - modest crop will be harvested and in the third leaf this orchard is estimated to produce around 100 - 120 apples which equates to about 45-50 tonnes per hectare.


Cabaret has a crisp (but what I describe as a 'forgiving texture' ) with a sweet, juicy and tasty flavour.


Below: Cabaret pictures taken in Kent today!



Below: left and right pickers harvesting Cabaret today (29th September)
































Below: another picker hard at work picking Cabaret and fruit in a bin (each holds about 300 kilos



Below: left a picking train which can pull 4 - 6 bins reduces walking and right. Bin labels ensure full traceability



Click on English Apple Man Journal for 2nd October 2020 and Cabaret in East Kent


That is all for this week


Take care


The Englsh Apple Man