Cultivate new varieties, says red grower

Longevity and knowledge is the key to ensuring the English red apple season is extended.

Barnett: a desire for a continuous season of English reds - image: HW
Barnett: a desire for a continuous season of English reds - image: HW

New varieties have the potential to provide year-round supply of English red apples, according to a grower who has championed their cultivation.

Speaking during Open Farm Sunday earlier this month, Tillington Fruit Farm manager William Barnett said: "I want a continuous season of English reds, ideally through to July, and we are getting towards that."

The Swiss-bred Junami "is one of the most interesting - like a Cox but slightly better", he said. "It's such a good storer, it can extend the English season by four months."

Meanwhile collaboration with nearby fruit tree grower Frank P Matthews has brought in plantings of Scrumptious and Red Windsor, which are unique to the 200-hectare Herefordshire farm.

"You can sell Cox till January, then Scrumptious to May," Barnett explained, adding: "Scrumptious is such a good-flavoured apple - Tesco have it in their Finest range, and they also love (the red-fleshed) Raspberry Ripple."

But he cautioned: "There is an element of risk - not every variety has come to wonderful things."

Barnett, who has worked at the Herefordshire fruit farm for 40 years and was named Top Fruit Grower of the Year 2010, added: "We exist to grow English reds, but you need knowledge and skill to do it."

The farm has been owned by the Cooperative for over 100 years, until the group's recent plan to sell its farming arm (see box). It also grows a range of traditional local varieties and produces speciality ciders, pears and cherries.

This was its second year participating in Open Farm Sunday. "Even here, children have no great understanding of what farming is," Barnett said.

Break up mooted - Cooperative plans ahead

The Cooperative has said it will consider breaking up its 15-strong farming estate rather than selling it as a single package as it originally intended.

But a community land trust has withdrawn a £10m bid for Tillington Fruit Farm after a crowd-funded study said the proposal was not viable. A similar conclusion was reached by a community group which had considered bidding for the group's Rosemount soft fruit farm in Perthshire. William Barnett confirmed Tillington is still for sale and will continue to supply its customers under new ownership.

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