A quick guide to English apples
The British apple season starts in earnest as early as August, but ramps up significantly as autumn unfolds. Now is surely the time to abandon energy-expensive foreign imports in favour of the dozens of lesser-known homegrown varieties whose exceptional quality is testament to this country’s long and venerable tradition of apple growing.
How seasonal are British apples?
Discoveries, worcester permains and collinas arrive while the summer holidays are still in full swing. Sweet, aromatic and joyfully juicy, these varieties do not store well, so munch as many as possible while you can. Egremont russets and cox’s orange pippins start in mid-September but are at their best for Apple Day in October, by which point the santana and topaz apples will also have appeared.
While all apples are at their best fresh from the tree, some later, hardier varieties like cox’s, russets, braeburns and galas can be squirrelled away in dark, cold, oxygen-depleted storage rooms for several months without spoiling, meaning you can feasibly buy them as late as next March, even April. More ephemeral pleasures can be found in those whose seasons are truly short-lived: apples like ashmead’s kernel, blenheim orange, krasava and beauty of bath.
What should we do with them?
British apples vary enormously in character: for example, while Chegworth Valley’s popular egremont russets boast a sweet, nutty flavour, the july red is juicy and vinous, and the slightly coarser flesh of the white transparent has a heady, sweet fragrance that fills a room when you cut into it. The varieties you see pictured here are all known as ‘eaters’; if it’s crumble, cobbler, pie, slump or sauce you’re after, plump instead for the large, luminous bramleys.
Where can I buy them?
Bramleys, cox’s and braeburns are ubiquitous at Borough Market, sold by the likes of Jock Stark, Ted’s Veg, Elsey & Bent and Paul Wheeler. Chegworth Valley’s Kentish farm grows blenheim orange, topaz, worcester permain, ashmead’s kernel and santana apples, among others, while Turnips sources an impressive selection from Brogdale Farm, home to more than 2,000 apple varieties.