The pick of the bunch
PUBLISHED: 18:26 17 September 2008 | UPDATED: 15:26 20 February 2013
October is apple month so why not try some old and new English varieties grown by Gillian Franklin at Cross Lanes Fruit Farm in Mapledurham...
IMAGES: Jeff Hopkins
How long have you been growing fruit?
We started growing apples, plums and pears here at Cross Lanes 30 years ago. The original orchards had been planted in 1948 and had at times been very successful. Sales of English fruit were declining following entry into the Common Market (now The European Union) and the glut of imported apples, but we found an ever increasing demand for good local varieties.
What first made you go into the business?
We were living in central London enjoying theatres, galleries etc. but wanted to move to the country and get involved in country life. I was keen to have a business of my own which I could run with a young family. Fruit growing seemed a much better idea than antique dealing or fish farming! The question is whether we would have done it had we known just how much work there was to do all through the year!
Tell us about your products.
When we moved here just four varieties of apples were grown. Now we grow 55 different apple varieties as well as nine varieties of pears and four varieties of plums, damsons and quince. We make our own freshly pressed non-pasteurised apple juices and, as we have bees for pollination, we also produce honey.
What's the philosophy behind your products?
Taste, flavour and variety! How many people do you hear saying they don't eat apples any more - it's no surprise to me as I feel supermarket apples lack these qualities. Our aim is to produce apples with full flavour - lots of the 'wow' factor.
With pears the secret is to pick them at the right time to develop full flavour and become lusciously juicy. Every couple of weeks a different variety is perfect for eating, right through from late August until Christmas.
What makes you different from other fruit producers?
We let the trees grow naturally and leave the apples to ripen on the trees. Specialising in old English varieties brings in tremendous variation, from the traditional Cox's Orange Pippins to Egremont, Rosemary and Brownlees Russets and Blenheim Orange. Newer Fiesta, Spartan and Jupiter are winners too. Our fresh, non-pasteurised apple juice is amazing - like fresh apples in a bottle. Every week different varieties are pressed.
Who are your customers?
Anyone with a love of fruit - old and young. People love to come to our Farm Shop and taste before they buy. Some live nearby and come every week. Others make an annual pilgrimage to get their supplies for the winter.
Have you won any awards?
No. We are always too busy to enter competitions. Our reward is seeing people enjoy the fruit.
Where can we buy your products?
Buy direct from our farm shop - open from Wednesday to Sunday, 10am-6pm from mid August to mid January. Or visit our stall at many of the Thames Valley Farmers' Markets including Reading, Purley, Newbury, Ascot, Wokingham and Maidenhead.
We can send apples anywhere in the UK with our mail order service - contact us for details.
Cross Lanes Fruit Farm is holding its annual Apple Open Day on Sunday 12 October from 10am-5pm. There will be apple and apple juice tasting, displays, guided walks of the orchards, stalls with apple cakes, pies, jams and jellies, apple games for children - and more.
Can you supply a recipe using your product?
Auntie Phyllis' Apple and Almond Pudding. It's a a family favorite named after the Aunt who first gave it to us. It is also useful for anyone with wheat intolerance or gluten allergy as there is no flour in it, ground almonds being used instead to make the light sponge-like top.
FIND OUT MORE
Cross Lanes Fruit Farm
Mapledurham, Reading RG4 7UW
Tel: 0118 9723167