Now, with this year’s bumper harvest about to hit Tesco shelves, the future couldn’t be rosier as UK growers predict they will have their biggest ever crop this year – amounting to 250 tonnes.
Not only should that be enough to last from now until around mid-September but it means that the UK is likely to be the only place in the world where apricots are in production at that time of year.
It’s a far cry from 10 years ago when a handful of gutsy, mainly Kentish fruit farmers managed to produce an admirable crop of around 40 tonnes which sold out as quickly as they hit supermarket shelves.
Tesco spotted the future potential early on and started working with local growers in 2009, with a view to launching major scale English apricot production.
Tesco Stone Fruit Buyer Maria Katsipi: “The apricots are grown in what is known as the ‘Garden of England’ – an area that produces arguably the best apples, pears, and strawberries in the world because of its gentle slopes and fantastic microclimate.
“Now 10 years on, the quality of the apricots grown this year that will hit our shelves next week are world class – as good if not better than the ones produced in France and Portugal, UK shoppers have a great affinity for British grown fruit and can’t get enough of these English apricots.”
Tesco was instrumental in helping set up the nascent British apricot industry and started working on a production partnership with DPS, one of the UK’s largest stone fruit suppliers back in 2010.
Until the late noughties British apricot production was not thought possible because of our cooler climate.
But the arrival on the market of apricot cultivars - basically tree hybrids bred especially for cooler climates that would flower later in the spring - have made British apricot production possible.
Apricot trees still need a lot of sunshine and as a result all the production at the moment is in the southern counties of England, with growers mainly in Kent and one on the Isle of Wight.
David Moore, owner of Home Farm, near Maidstone, is now the UK’s biggest grower of English apricots, and Tesco’s main supplier who this summer looks set to produce a record-breaking 136 tonnes.
For more information: tescoplc.com