DID YOU know that the UK has one of the largest fruit collections in the world? The National Fruit Collection, owned by Defra, is home to 3,500 named apple, pear, plum, cherry, bush fruit, vine and cob nut cultivars. It’s part of an international programme to protect plant genetic resources for the future.
There are food security challenges ahead and the collection, which is located at Brogdale Farm in Kent and managed by the University of Reading, has a role to play. The university and Farm Advisory Services Team “aim to increase the utility and security of the collection, developing it as a resource for use in future research and breeding”, says the website.
Over the years, many of the fruits have fallen prey to the commercialisation of orchards, with crop and fruit size, appearance and storage durability winning out over character, texture and flavour. But some believe there’s still a market for them. This includes the niche City fine dining business Lusso.
In a first for foodservice, the caterer has teamed up with Brogdale Farm to bring a selection of rare fruit varieties to market this season. This starts with cherries, berries and early plums, moving through to the autumn apple, pear and cobnut season.
Bloody Ploughman, Cat’s Head, Peasgood’s Nonsuch and Sussex Mother are some of the apples on offer – albeit in tiny quantities. Crops are only picked from two trees of each variety, with Lusso’s client sites receiving 5kg boxes delivered by Reynolds. Not all the fruit will necessarily look pristine, but it will taste “wonderfully different to the usual bland commercial offering”, says Lusso.
The firm’s executive chef, Jim Wealands, adds: “There are some amazing forgotten fruit varieties at Brogdale – there’s even a little pink apple that tastes just like pineapple. My chefs can’t wait to get their hands on the fruit and start letting their culinary imaginations run wild.”