Strolling around a sunny orchard in Bekesbourne, a quiet Kent village, James Martin can’t resist picking a juicy red Early Windsor apple and biting into it. ‘There’s nothing better than freshly picked fruit,’ he says. ‘In my opinion, the UK is one of the best apple producers in the world.’
James is visiting Tony Frankham, managing director of Newmafruit. This family-run orchard, founded in 1973, has supplied Asda with apples since 2011.
Tony, who works directly with Asda, says there’s no better place to grow apples in the UK. ‘The coast is nearby so the sun hits the ocean and creates a little microclimate,’ he explains. ‘The combination of sunlight, rain and nutrient-rich soil is crucial to cultivating the crunchiest, tastiest fruit.’
Newmafruit produces a range of varieties, from the sour Bramley cooking apple – James’ favourite – to eating apples like Cox’s, Braeburn and Russets.
‘All eating apples used to taste like the Bramley,’ Tony explains. ‘It’s only recently our tastebuds have changed and we’re demanding sweeter varieties.
‘Our Bramley trees are more than 50 years old. They’re big, and planted with wide gaps between them. Now we’re intensifying the production of our eating apples, planting smaller trees to get more per hectare to produce even more affordable fruit.’
And the key to the best apple? ‘It’s flavour,’ Tony says. ‘Someone might buy an apple once based on how it looks, but if they don’t like the flavour, they won’t buy it a second time.
‘We need to produce something that looks good for customers, but has fantastic flavour, too.’
Tony Frankham and James Martin
Better fruit, better value
James believes Asda’s commitment to working more closely with growers is the key to better - quality affordable produce for the customer. ‘As a chef you understand the importance of where food comes from - we always use local growers like Tony,’ he says. ‘So it’s fantastic to see a supermarket like Asda supporting local producers. When I first got involved, I didn’t realise how much input, especially financial, a supermarket has in the day-to-day running of a supplier. Until you try to grow fruit, you don’t value just how much hard work goes into it.’
Give it a whirlUse up leftover apples this autumn with this deliciously moist apple cake.