Pick of the crop: experience 25 of Europe’s most celebrated harvests

1. Apples and pears, UK

The image of orchards full of fruit at the end of summer is central to our idea of ​​the English countryside, and our relationship with apples and pears goes back a thousand years. When the Romans arrived in England, they encountered tiny, sour wild apples and endemic wild pears. Fortunately, they brought with them sweeter, larger, cultivated versions of both fruits.

Apple production continued after the fall of the Roman Empire when the Normans brought new varieties to these shores and Henry VIII set up his own orchards in Kent, but it was the Victorians who planted almost 2,000 varieties that really stepped things up.

The UK’s National Fruit Collection today contains 2,131 varieties of apples and 523 varieties of pears, but 80% of England’s small orchards have been lost since 1900 and we import more than 400,000 tonnes of apples a year – about 60% of what we consume. Isaac Newton found inspiration after being hit by a beautiful but almost forgotten variety, Kentflower – but you won’t find it in our supermarkets selling a narrow selection, which the Royal Gala immediately took over.

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A quarter of its market share is followed by Pink Lady, a traditionally imported apple currently grown in Kent, with the first domestic crop going on sale earlier this year. With pear we eat an even narrower selection, especially Conference. However, you’ll find more options in a good grocery or vegetable box.

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As for how we consume them, they’re mostly snacked on without additives, although apples remain popular in desserts such as pies, muffins, apple cake (especially in the Southwest), and apple charlotte (a bread and fruit pudding). Pear is eaten with cheese, in chutney and boiled. Both fruits are drunk – the UK is the world’s largest cider market (half of our apples are grown for it). Perry or perry production is on a smaller scale, the most famous example being Babycham.

Both are in season from August to November, and if you choose your own apple, take note: a ripe apple from the tree should come with a soft twist. If you need to pull or the caterpillars are green, it is not ripe; Pears should be picked just before ripening and given a week to sweeten.

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You’ll find ciders and ciders on the bill at most fall food festivals in the UK, though dedicated pomologists pay attention to the Big Apple events held in the spring and fall on picturesque Marcle Ridge in Herefordshire. Visitors are transported between flower or orchards in a trailer attached to a tractor. In addition, England’s national Apple Day is traditionally 21 October, and there are dozens of local events held in and around the day. Pears are harder to find, but Brogdale Farm in Kent is open for orchard days and pick your own in September and October.


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