It’s the height of the English apple season and yet of the 2,200 varieties grown in Britain, supermarkets stick to a familiar few. There’s a delicious spectrum of flavours and sensations at their brightest and best that deserve to be enjoyed right now. Here are eight sensational in-season homegrown varieties you need to try that pip predictably bland imports.
To go by the ‘apple a day’ maxim, you’d need around 19 years to try every known variety. And with flavours, textures, colours and shapes that range from sharp to sweet, from richly aromatic to nutty, from crisp to juicy, from round to pear-shaped, deep red to earthy green, it’s a wonder English apples aren’t celebrated more.
Head to your supermarket, and you’ll find a sad selection. You’d be forgiven for thinking only five or six types exist. As our choices are streamlined, we’re forgetting how nuanced, exciting and downright tasty these everyday English apple orchard fruits can be.
That’s why we love Brogdale Fine Fruits. Home to the National Fruit Collection, these guys grow 2,200 varieties of our humble apple; apples that have been grown in gardens and orchards for centuries. A veritable live gene bank!
Brogdale do a wonderful job, growing and selling apples that would otherwise be relegated to forgotten orchards, or at worst, left to perish into extinction. You can get goodie bags of their seasonal apple (and pear) varieties (with some fruits coming from just two trees), with a new choice of heritage British apples every time.
To celebrate, here’s our selection – a varied snapshot, if you will – of the types of apples they have in store.
1. To chomp a hunk o’cheese with…
Crisp, nut-like with hints of pineapple, bite into this one with a wedge of sharp Cheddar.
Similar to a Russet, this pear-shaped apple is sweet, nutty and fits right in with a Ploughman’s lunch.
2. To get your cook on with…
With a firm – not pappy – fine texture and rich aromatic flavour, this dessert number is also particularly good for cooking. Try it on an apple tart; the flesh will hold its shape beautifully without cooking down into a pulp.
One of the oldest traditional English cooking apples, Dumelow’s Seedling cooks down brilliantly into a stiff purée – perfect for apple sauce.
3. To get juicy with…
Golden fruits flushed and striped red, Ellison’s Orange has a note of aniseed to it. Full of flavour, this is a good one for making into juice. Try blending with Dumelow’s Seedling (above); a cooking apple that, according to Brogdale’s Farm Manager, Nigel, “definitely has the edge on Bramley”.
4. To eat straight up…
Norfolk Royal Russet
You may have heard of the Egremont Russet, but what about the Norfolk Royal? With a crisp, firm flesh and a deliciously sweet flavour, this one’s good for eating just as it is.
With bright red stripes over a golden green background colour, Lord Lambourne’s a beauty. The flesh is creamy white, slightly coarse-textured, firm and juicy, with a strong sweet scent that’s rather like strawberries.
A crisp dessert apple from Devon, Oaken Pin is so named for its skittle-like shape. Intensely sweet and aromatic.
To order your own selection of delicious apples, and other orchard varieties, head over to Brogdale Fine Fruits on Farmdrop.
Love an apple and cheese pairing? Here’s your guide to the perfect cheeseboard.
Blog post originally published in October 2017.