Rubens variety racks up top three places to retain apple title at National Fruit Show

Variety sees off 150 contenders to be named Britain's Tastiest Apple in its first commercial growing season in the UK.

Rubens has again taken the title of Britain's Tastiest Apple, taking first, second and third places at the National Fruit Show.

Beating off competition from 150 other entries, victory was particularly sweet for Nigel Bardsley of River Farm, Staplehurst, who was responsible for introducing the Italian-bred variety to the UK and also chairs the Mid Kent Growers collective.

The second and third places went to fellow Mid Kent Growers member Simon Mount and independent grower Clive Goatham.

Rubens made up five of the nine finalists, which were judged on shape, appearance, colour and taste by a panel of judges including English Apples & Pears chief executive Adrian Barlow.

The variety is exclusively licensed in the UK by marketing company Norman Collett. Commercial director Michael Joyles said: "It will have a positive effect on sales of Rubens. We have put quite a bit of marketing behind it, including giveaways and the launch of a website,"

A cross between Gala and Elstar, Rubens was trialled in Kent in 2007. "So far we have 13 growers with around 200,000 trees, and there are a further 60,000 trees going in this year," said Joyles.

"This is really its first commercial season and at the moment sales are very good through supermarkets."

He added: "This comes at a time when interest in British-grown is on the rise. Rubens is grown in several European countries, but is actually better suited to the British climate.

"It also has very good storing, giving it a long season from October to April. And unlike Gala or Cox, it doesn't oxidise when you cut it, making it good for the processing market too."

Bee-friendly Orchards lure pollinators

Research by Reading University and bee expert Robin Dean has led to novel, bee-friendly management of Rubens orchards from the ground up.

Bee-friendly flowering species are included in the grass mix under the trees and in the adjacent hedgerows. Meanwhile, "bee hotels" encourage solitary species, such as the red mason bee, which is around 300 times more efficient as a pollinator than the honey bee.

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