Smiling like Sunshine: Best of British Fruit and Vegetables

Friday, 23 May 2014

Best of British Fruit and Vegetables

Spring is one of the busiest times of the year for gardeners, but it is also one of the most rewarding. Now is the time to plant and sew your fruit and vegetables so that you can reap the rewards of your endeavours through the summer and the autumn.  Here we will look at some of our British favourites: strawberries, potatoes and apples.
Strawberries
In the past English strawberries were a special summer treat that weren’t available much before Wimbledon fortnight gets started, but today they are grown commercially under polythene tunnels and have a much extended season. The first Devon strawberries appear in early spring, though the main crops don’t appear until early June, and 2014 will be a bumper year for them. They will also be bigger and sweeter than in 2013, thanks to a particularly warm winter. Picking your own strawberries is a popular activity on UK holidays.
If you are interested in trivia, then you might like to know that during the Wimbledon Championship around 28 tonnes of strawberries will be consumed along with 7,000 litres of cream.
Planting strawberries: ideally you should plant your strawberry beds in autumn, but if you didn’t so then there is still time to grow them in pots. As they develop tuck straw underneath them to discourage them from rotting before you get the chance to pick them.
Potatoes
It is said that potatoes are the world’s favourite vegetable, and they certainly are a favourite crop of British gardeners. They were even a staple food as long ago as 8000 BC. Today we can buy new potatoes at any time of year from supermarkets, but those imported new potatoes don’t have anything of the flavour and texture of locally grown.
The earliest new potatoes come from the Channel Islands and are called Jersey Royals. They have been grown on Jersey for almost one and a half centuries. There are just 20 farmers who grow them and the variety is protected under EU law as designation of origin. There special taste and texture is the result of Jersey’s mild climate and its rich fertile soil.
Planting potatoes: There are hundreds of different potato varieties, and British gardeners describe them as early crop, second crop, and main crop potatoes. While early and second crop are planted in March and April you can still plant main crop potatoes in May and you can expect to lift them in late autumn.
Apples
Apples were first cultivated in Turkey and they are one of the first trees ever to be cultivated. They grew wild in Britain right back in the Neolithic period, but it was the Romans who introduced many sweeter and more flavoursome varieties to England during their occupation.
There are thousands of different varieties of apples, though many of the famous English varieties are rarely seen die to completion from imported apples such as Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and Granny Smith which were bred for yield rather than flavour and texture. The reason why British apples taste so much better than imported varieties is that we don’t experience extreme temperatures and our frequent rainfall means that our apples to grow slowly and so develop a fuller flavour.
Planting apple trees: You can plant pot grown apple trees at just about any time of the year, but preferably from the early autumn through to the late spring, though you should avoid planting them in the winter. You can plant them in the ground, or, if you choose a patio variety, in containers.

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