A diet rich in apples has been linked to a wealth of benefits such as weight loss, improved lung function and a lower risk of stroke, cancer and heart disease. The humble apple has been a part of our human diet since before 6,000 BC, giving energy, sweetness and texture to foragers throughout the world through long winter months. Sadly, the ancient apple varieties have mostly disappeared, which were all shapes and sizes from oblong or pumpkin-sized to tiny pea-small. Whittled from tens of thousands of varieties to just a couple of thousand in the National Apple collection – apples are an anomaly in that we eat them nearly every day but don’t treat them with nearly enough of the excitement and appreciation they deserve!
Since the 18th century, Sussex has mainly planted russet apple trees to harvest for their rich cider and juices – but modern farmers have experimented by crossing with their older Eastern-European relatives to give a broader crop diversity.
So, this week, we are celebrating the arrival of some new Autumn varieties from the Ringden orchards on the Kent/Sussex border.
Cox Apples – both large and small fruit. Yellow fleshed, sweet and juicy and our benchmark for ‘apple’ flavour …Great for lunchboxes and snacking from the fruitbowl and will equally stand up to the flavour of mature cheese.
Elstar Apple – Beautiful easy flavour. A pale yellow flesh with a bright soft skin. This apple is the child of the Golden Delicious and is a perfect easy-eater. Nothing offputting and just a slight hint of tartness.
Spartan Apple – Crunchy and sweet. With a slightly wine-like flavour making this a grown up apple. The deep red skin works beautifully in a Tarte Tatin or combined with creamy cheeses on a board.
Red Devil – Sweet red-tinted flesh. The name Red Devil doesn’t do justice to the sweet and rich flavour of these juicy apples. Best eaten early in the season when they are at their sweetest – these are absolutely beautiful when eaten as dessert.
Red Pippin – Fresh crunchy and juicy. This one is great for children – a smallish apple early on with a fresh, sweet and open flavour. Sometimes known as a Fiesta apple.
And finally, talking of cheeseboards – the cooler Sussex climate brings out the chlorophyll notes in the grass eaten by our cows and sheep – resulting in fruitier and creamier cheeses than you would find in regional cousins. Pair these with tart and fruity condiments to compliment a dessert board…or use with crudites as a dip with an aperitif – just adjust the horseradish/creme fraiche ratio to suit. This sauce works equally well with a roast or cold meats and is especially nice with cold mackerel.
Apple Horseradish SAUCE
- 1 level tablespoon prepared horseradish
250g creme fraiche
- 1 small apple
1. Combine creme fraiche and horseradish in a bowl.
2. Peel the apple and chop it very finely, or grate it on the largest holes of a grater. Add apple to cream mixture. Stir in salt and pepper to taste.
3. Cover and chill until serving time.