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The English Apple Man


15th Sep 2023 - Serious Apple Harvesting has begun!

The 2023 apple harvest is on it's way as Cox picking (1st pick) complete on many farms and Gala underway a well.


On Wednesday The English Apple Man popped into Monks Farm at Norton in East Kent to see how Simon Bray was finding this year's cropping levels.


An old friend and one of the best growers around, his fruit regularly available on M&S shelves, Bramley and Cox had been picked and I found Simon and his pickers busy in the Smitten orchard.


Smitten is a modern apple variety, developed in New Zealand, but closely related to some popular modern English varieties - Fiesta and Falstaff, as well as Gala and Braeburn.


The flesh is a yellow-cream color, fairly dense, with a crisp texture and moderately juicy. The flavor is sweet but with some acidity. We rate it as pleasant but not outstanding.


The skin is slightly greasy, but with a pleasant odour.


Given its parentage it is not surprising it has good keeping qualities - Fiesta, Gala, and Braeburn all store very well.


Smitten is the trademark, the cultivar name is PremA17.



Smitten is another of the excellent apple varieties bred in New Zealand, like Jazz, Envy & Pacific Rose


The search for the world's most irresistible eating apple began in New Zealand and ended with Smitten.


"An exciting new variety with rich, balanced, traditional flavours and phenomenal crunch."


Bellow: Smitten on a tree at Monks Farm this week


Plant and Food Research in New Zealand began trials in 2005 with breathtaking results, determined by rigorous and extensive benchmarks designed to measure commercial potential of new varieties. In 2008, New Zealand began commercial planting of the variety and has exported worldwide from mature orchards since April 2013. The reaction has been powerfully positive with both retailers and consumers.



Smitten was introduced to the United States in 2011 by Pegasus Premier Fruit and is regarded by many as the "Crown Jewel" of the world's leading apple breeding program by Plant and Food Research LTD of New Zealand, the same brilliant researchers who produced Jazz tm, Envy tm , and Pacific Rose tm. This exciting new variety is non-GMO, bred by traditional methods.


Simon Bray grows a variety of apples at Monks Farm including Bramley, Cox, Smitten, Gala, Jazz, Braeburn, Granny Smith, Red Delicious et al.
















Below left. Smitten Tree at Monks Farm and right. Smitten apples in a bin



Below: Simon Bray uses picking trains drawn by small tractors, with each train driven by a member of a gang of 2-4 pickers working with it and in this case, x 4 gangs with picking trains picking Smitten. Once the train is full, the driver will take it to the headland and collect another empty train



Below; left. Male picker and right. Female picker



Below: These two pickers were eager to pose for The English Apple Man. Simon's pickers come from Romania.



Below: Impressive picture of Smitten in bins on picking train with Smitten laden trees behind



Below: left. Granny Smith tree and right. Granny Smith apples. Our changing climate has allowed varieties like Granny Smth and Pnk Lady to be grown successfully in Southern England



Below: Left. Gala tree with fruit not ready yet and right. a patch of Gala with good colour. Simon's are Mondial Gala which is not as highly coloured as later clones like Galaxy Gala



Below: Jazz which will be ready for picking circa mid-October



The English Apple Man is involved with the development of Bladon Pippin which matures around mid-September and Simon hosts a trial tree which I pick every year for tasting samples. Unfortunately, this year my trip from East Sussex to East Kent was 'possibly a week early as they are not quite as ripe or coloured as they should be.


Below: left. Bladon Pippin Tree and right. Bladon Pippin apples



Click on Bladon Pippin for the story behind this beautiful apple.


Moving apples from the orchard to the farm in British orchards in 2023 is a physically easy task. Bins with around 300 kg are moved on picking trains, off loaded with a fork truck onto a trailer and back at the farm yard, off loaded from the trailer into a cold store by another fork truck.




My good friend Vikram Singh Thakur sent me a picture of apple harvest in Shimla in the Himalayas where his family grow apples on steep hillsides.


This picture was taken of a Sherpa carrying 9 x 18kg crates down a steep and slippery slope from the orchard to the level ground below. A journey of about half an hour!!!!!!!



Vikram said this picture is not from their family farm, but many growers were affected by the recent torrential rain. Vikram sums it up with: Very steep and barely made paths, it's like coming down Ben Nevis in pouring rain!


To understand the 'terrain' click on The Himalayan Apple Man Sadly Vikram's father Lakshman Thakur is no longer with us, but his brothers continue the family business.


That is all for this week


Take care


The English Apple Man