How do you like them apples?

15 Mar

Apples! I love them.

As I was biting into a particularly delicious and large Sussex-grown apple today, I started a thinking. Shouldn’t we be celebrating them more? I know we don’t like to sing and dance about good things in this little island of ours but why are we buying boring supermarket apples. When people come from abroad to our little island and ask about good produce, we invariably answer that we don’t know what is good. We hide it from ourselves and let supermarkets do our thinking for us. Apples love England. English weather loves apples. Did you know that you could eat a different variety of English-grown apple everyday for over 6 years without having to have the same one twice? Thousands of varieties. Dessert apples, cooking apples and cider apples, we have the lot and until quite recent history really respected them.

Nowadays, you could probably count the number of apples available in any supermarket on one hand and about half of these would probably be imported. I’m sure if this was Italy or Japan the situation would never be tolerated. Is it true that we don’t care about our fruit trees? . There are new housing estates built with names such as Orchard Way or Cherry Tree Gardens. No prizes for guessing what was there before the houses, yet a signpost is often the only remaining clue to the previous incarnation of the area. Why, when rebuilding, could these things not be made to co-exist? Perhaps there have been so many apples available that people just got plain bored with them. There is a fruit tree in nearly every garden in suburbia, but it can be a pain getting apples off the lawn. Industrially, nearly two-thirds of England’s orchard areas have disappeared in the last 50 years, and with them many traditional (and tasty) varieties, yet we still import blander varieties.

Apples are healthy and are a great culinary ingredient: Apple pies, cider and mussels, pork and apple, herring and apple, apple and cinnamon, apple this, apple that… They have been part of the food and landscape here for a couple of thousand years. The Victorians, in particular, ‘went mental’ for bringing on new varieties leaving us a cultural legacy, which we are squandering. Doom doom doom!! This sounds depressing, doesn’t it?

So why don’t we plant a few more traditional trees in our gardens, protect our orchards, demand local apples, cook with them a bit more, celebrate apple day, even go wassailing (even in pubs around London there are a few people who still do this). It would be nice to celebrate the good old English apple with a touch more pomp.

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