British apples available all year round as new varieties last in cold storage for up to a year

British apples are now being supplied all year round, growers say, as production of homegrown fruit increases by almost 80pc in a decade.

New varieties and technology improving orchards, storage and picking has enabled UK growers to supply supermarkets with apples throughout the year.

British-grown fruit currently has a 40 per cent market share but the industry is hoping to reach 60 per cent over the next decade.

Trade body British Apples & Pears said: "British growers now supply the nation with apples 52 weeks of the year.

"We have rebuilt our orchards and we have grown 79 per cent more apples in the last decade and planted nine million more trees in the last 10 years."

Alison Capper, chairman of British Apples and Pears, and a hop and fruit farmer, said improvements to British varieties meant they were available long after the harvesting season between August and November.

Apples are picked during this period but then stored for months in cold storage systems, where oxygen, carbon dioxide and nitrogen levels are monitored to maintain them in perfect condition.

Varieties such as Braeburn improve with time stored, appearing on shelves in the winter and spring, and Gala varieties will last for 12 months. Bramley cooking apples are available all year round.

"The constant varietal development, especially in the last seven to 10 years, now means that the industry has got a lot more varieties that will store for a lot longer.

"Varieties like gala, which perhaps 10 years ago, only really did well until about April or May, today the newer clones will go through until July or August, even into September when we start picking the next year's crop," she said.

Farmers keep orchards full of experimental varieties which are observed for desirable traits such as looking palatable, growing consistently and disease resistance.

The British temperate maritime climate is ideal for growing apples because they ripen more slowly adding flavour, she said, and it is likely to remain favourable even as other countries struggle due to climate change.

Increasing drought on the west coast of America and South Africa, both prominent apple-growing regions, is likely to put agriculture there under strain.

Climate change could also mean that new varieties can be grown in a future UK which has milder wetter winters and hot dry summers.

"You can't buy a British Pink Lady at the moment, but we would like to get to a place where you could," Mrs Capper added.

Source: The Telegraph