Image: Palate of Mark Eastwood's apples.
The temperate British climate offers ideal conditions for growing the fruit, which ripens more slowly – developing a good acidity and complexity of flavour.
Over the last decade, the British apple industry has made a concerted effort to increase its market share in our shops and supermarkets by 50% in the face of competition from abroad.
Growers have invested over £120 million in technology, research and development and planted over 8 million new trees.
Here at New Covent Garden Market, several of our traders enjoy a direct line to the country’s best growers.
At wholesaler H. G. Walker Ltd, for example, director Eddie Barrett and his son Michael are key customers for several apple growers in Kent.
Image: Eddie Barrett of H.G. Walker Ltd, New Covent Garden Market.
“Kent is London’s natural larder, with some of the most beautiful countryside and highly skilled farmers that have grown incredible produce for many generations,” Barrett says.
One of his suppliers is Mark Eastwood, who grows apples and plums over 40 hectares of orchards near Tonbridge in Kent.
Eastwood has an enviable reputation for the consistent high quality and size of his fruit. On a typical year, he harvests around 800 tonnes of apples and 30 tonnes of plums.
Image: Apple farmer Mark Eastwood.
Apple varieties include Discovery, Early Windsor, Worcester, Spartan, Egremont Russet, Cox, Gala and Braeburn.
Eastwood's grandfather bought the farm in 1915. Back then, it would have been far more mixed: soft fruit, apples, hops, sheep and cereals. "A typical Wealden farm," says Eastwood.
"But as things have progressed you have to specialise in one crop ... I could see more of a future specialising in fruit."
Image: Eastwood orchards.
Back at New Covent Garden Market, Barrett agrees with this sentiment. “These guys are absolute experts – they really are … I am positive he knows every single tree intimately and keeps them healthy and producing due to this. I have never met anyone who cares so much and is so passionate about his produce.”
Image: Newmafruit applies on the branch.
Another key wholesaler on the Market is S Newman, who for many years has been supplied directly by Newmafruit.
The longtime chairman of Newmafruit, Melvyn Newman, started life working at his family’s wholesale business at the original Covent Garden Market – the third generation to do so – before planting extensive orchards of his own.
Over four decades he expanded from a 20-acre farm in Paddock Wood to more than 1300 acres. It may well be you too have enjoyed the fruits of his labour.
Discover the varieties and exceptional tastes of our British varietals by contacting one of our wholesalers listed at the top, or contact Meg or Cassie at the market: firstname.lastname@example.org or 02077202211. We are here to help you.
Images: Newmafruit apples in a palet and growing on trees.
Authors and Photographer: Tom Moggach and Meg Morrison
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