The British apricot industry will have its biggest crop in 10 years after it began growing the fruit in Kent.
A decade ago, a small number of fruit growers, mainly from Kent, produced the first crop of British-grown apricots, despite warnings from agronomists that the fruit’s growth would not be sustainable due to the British climate.
This year’s crop will produce 250 tons of stone fruit, a big increase from 2012’s 40-ton crop.
Not only is the harvest likely to last until mid-September, but it means that Britain is likely to be the only place in the world to grow apricots at that time of year.
Tesco Supermarket has teamed up with a number of Kentish apricot growers to stock their shelves with local produce.
Tesco was instrumental in helping to establish the nascent UK apricot industry and began working on a production partnership with DPS, one of the UK’s largest stone fruit suppliers in 2010.
Tesco stone fruit buyer Maria Katsipi said: “Apricots are grown in the ‘Garden of England’, an area that produces arguably the best apples, pears and strawberries in the world due to its gentle slopes and fantastic microclimate. .
“Now, 10 years later, the quality of this year’s grown apricots that will hit our shelves next week is world class, as good if not better than those produced in France and Portugal.
“UK buyers have a great affinity for British grown fruit and can’t get enough of these English apricots.”
Until the late 2000s, British apricot production was not thought possible due to our colder climate.
This year has been a very good growing season with the right amount of rain, sun and the recent heat wave helping to create a high quality crop.
David Moore, Owner, Home Farm Maidstone
But the arrival on the market of apricot cultivars (hybrids of trees bred especially for cooler climates that would flower later in the spring) has made British apricot production possible.
Apricot trees still need a lot of sun and as a result all production at the moment is in the southern counties of England, with growers mainly in Kent and one on the Isle of Wight.
David Moore, owner of Home Farm near Maidstone, is now the UK’s largest grower of English apricots and the main supplier to Tesco, which this summer looks set to produce a record 136 tonnes.
Moore said: “Production has really improved over the last 10 years and we are now much better prepared for the changing British weather.
“Ironically, the cooler British night temperatures produce very high quality apricots, as the fruit grows more slowly, resulting in a more intense, sweeter flavor and stronger, richer color than imported varieties. from France and Portugal.
“Over the last 10 years we have learned to understand the light needs of fruit ripening for these new varieties, so we have adopted our pruning style to maximize the amount of light reaching the fruit-bearing parts of the tree. .
“In addition, we have had to learn to combat the effect of frost in the early growing stages of the season and now have an insulating canopy structure to protect the crop from the extremes of UK weather.
“This year has been a very good growing season with the right amount of rain, sunshine and the recent heat wave has helped create a high quality crop.”
The first English apricots of the season will arrive in Tesco stores from next week, priced at £1.50 per punnet.