There’s an incredible bounty to be had at this time of year. We can’t get enough of the early apples, pears and different varieties of plums, not to mention the hedgerow fruits and berries that are starting to really come into their own.
I enjoyed watching the BBC’s Harvest programme last week. The show was full of facts about the different crops grown around the country and gave a great insight into the workings of some of the UK’s biggest farming operations and how they get their produce from the field (or tree) into the supermarket so that it’s at its best.
With these things in mind, I’m still shocked that the supermarkets around where we live are not stocking ANY British varieties of apples or pears. If you’re lucky you can get British plums and berries, but it really is disappointing. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised – some of the British varieties may not be as commercially successful as apples imported from New Zealand and France, but if you don’t give people the choice, how can they be? Surely growing a range of varieties that ripen at different times should also help farmers to stagger their harvest. But what do I know?!
Short of growing our own, which is the long-term aim, the best solution I’ve found is to turn my back on the supermarkets and go straight to the farm. Buying fruit from the farm is really good value, and you get to pick from a range of varieties that are really at the peak of freshness and ripeness at that time.
I’ve already written about a visit to Lathcoat’s Farm in Chelmsford, who grow a vast range of varieties. This morning I visited Wheldon’s Fruit Farm (@WheldonsFarm) between Newton Green and Sudbury in Suffolk. At the farm they grow over twenty varieties of apples and pears, as well as plums, damsons, strawberries, raspberries, black and red currants and vegetables. They have a farm shop and cafe and also offer Pick Your Own on a wide range of their fruit and some vegetables including asparagus in the Spring.
The stock in the farm shop is really well selected – there are fruit and vegetables from the farm and a good mixture of local and speciality produce. They make a range of their own jams and chutneys, which all looked great (after much deliberation I went for blackcurrant jam and pear chutney). I also came home with some other treasures including a rhubarb and ginger cordial from Hedgerow Cordials (@HedgerowCordial), based in Suffolk, bacon from Lane Farm (@lane_farm), local eggs and bread from down the road in Lavenham.
I’ll be keeping an eye out for British apples in the supermarkets, but only out of interest. If the Red Tractor scandal this week (when pork being sold as British was found to most likely be Dutch) has taught us anything, it should be that the longer the supply chain, the slower the process and the more room for error. This is obviously more controversial for meat, but I think the same principles can be applied to anything. You can’t beat going straight to the farm!