British Apples - Facts, Choosing, Cooking

British Apples
British Apples. Photo © Elaine Lemm

Memories of British Apples

Many childhood memories are associated with apples. “Scrumping” (stealing apples from the tree) is a nightly sport in late August and September and what would a childhood lunch box be without an apple? I never remember handing my apples over to teacher, natures perfect energizing snack was needed for my rumbling tummy.

Every year my grandmother had a fanaticism for wrapping apples from her tree in newspaper and squirreling them away in the attic (a remnant from war rationing I think). My father’s one time try at cider-making was never repeated; my mother realizing he liked the ‘fruits’ of his labours rather too much.

Am I wrong or did those apples taste better? Perhaps it is the lack of native varieties available to us now that makes the difference.

British Apple Varieties and a Little History

The Romans first brought the apple to the UK. How hard it is to imagine our landscape without the orchard or gardens without the apple tree. Nevertheless, if we let things continue the way they have in recent times, this, sadly, will be the reality. The arrival of cheap imported supermarket fruits – polished impostors with their EU imposed shape and size – has led to a rapid decline of many orchards with the loss of many old apple varieties.

There are many native apples for eating, cooking, as well as for cider making and crab apples for pickling. They have enchanting names: Acklam Russets, Barnack Beauty, Nutmeg Pippin, Knobby Russet…and many more. Despite this, most growers concentrate on a few commercially proven varieties, leaving us with little choice.

Thank goodness then for all the projects around the country to save out orchards and our apples. The national Apple Collection at Brogdale Horticultural Trust in Faversham has the most comprehensive authenticated collection of varieties in the World with almost 2,500 varieties and is well worth a visit.

The charity Common Ground, started Apple Day in 1990, it is now held every year on October 21st. Apple Day is recognized throughout the country with apple festivals, events competitions – The Longest Peel – but mainly the day raises awareness of the fantastic apples we have.

British Apple Season

Apples are never ripe and ready for eating all at the same time. British apples divide into four types: earlies ripen in August through to early September; mid-season from September to October; late season, for eating in October to December, and extra late, for eating in December to May. So, but for a few months, native apples are available for eating and cooking year round.

Choosing Apples

Choose apples that are neither bruised nor wrinkly. A quick sniff of an apple will usually determine a fresh apple and – like a melon - a slight heaviness in the hand the juiciness. Store apples in the fruit bowl, not the refrigerator. If you must use the fridge, remove 30 minutes before eating and bring to room temperature otherwise the fruit will have a dead-flavour.

Any fruit that has lingered too long in the fruit bowl is still good for peeling and using in a fruit salad, cooking or for juicing.


“An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
Apples contain essential vitamins and minerals to help protect the body's system. In addition, they are a good source of dietary fibre and vitamin C. By adding apples to everyday dishes, you will contribute to your five-a-day pieces of fruit and vegetables.

Cooking with Apples

Apples, like tomatoes are one of the most versatile fruits we have. They are delicious raw or cooked in sweet or savory dishes. They add sweetness to chutneys and jellies, and rich in pectin, apple added to a home made jam ensures a good set.