Sweet success for Fenland growers as Bramley’s Seedling cooking apples picked early

FENLAND growers have picked a quality crop of the nation’s favourite cooking apple, the Bramley’s Seedling, a fortnight earlier than usual.

A leading grower, John Portass, who has orchards around West Walton, near Wisbech, said that the very late frosts did not cause too much damage to the cooking varieties.

“It did really affect the dessert apples quite badly, especially the younger trees, which are exposed to the weather but the Bramley came through quite well really,” he added.

A large part of fenland was hit quite badly one day by the late May frost. “Our weather station stands about four foot high and it recorded -4C at 5am. By 7.30am, it was 9C – a rise of 13 degrees.”

Mr Portass said that the Bramley’s fruit size was quite large in the fenland area. “The fruit size is good generally which has boosted the yield slightly as well. We’re quite pleased with the Bramley crop overall.

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“There are some slightly odd-shaped fruit which we can sort going into store,” he said. As picking was almost complete, he said that the bulk of the crop was larger than previous years, probably closer to 95mm.

The best sizes between typically between 80mm and 110mm. “I suppose the average size this year is closer to 95mm, there’s more larger fruit available than smaller fruit.”

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Mr Portass suggested that fruit size was probably about 5mm more than expected. “I would say that the Bramley tonnage is very similar to the last year or two. We were expecting it to be 10 to 15pc down, so it is back to a normal year in terms of yield because of the larger fruit size.

He said that the sugar levels were higher in Bramley’s. “This is good news for the health conscious consumer because it means that you’ll need to add less sugar to your Bramley apple pie.

“We don’t really know why,” said Mr Portass, who said that the industry standard measurement, the Brix levels, were generally higher.

He said that the orchards managed to get all the water required in the prolonged spring drought. “They’ve actually had all the water they need in the last couple of months, so again that’s why the extra yield is there. The rain came in time for the crucial fruit filling.”

“It has been a record early year and normally we would be starting about the middle of the month. Now, we’re about to start on the desserts.

He grows about 70 acres of Bramley’s but the acreage has been gradually reduced. “We’re grubbing up Bramley and planting desserts because they make a better return.

“I think we’re now getting the volume of Bramley’s more consistent with demand. There’s a lot of product and hopefully good quality as well, enough to be on the shelf for 12 months.”

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