The Decline of The “Kentish Nap”
Thinking about Summer made me realise something else.
A few years ago you could tell the seasons from when certain types of fruit and vegetables went on sale in the shops and supermarkets.
For example Summer was signalled by the arrival of cherries , strawberries and raspberries. Mushrooms , russet apples and hazelnuts (or cracknuts as we call them in Kent) saw the arrival of Autumn.
These days you can buy almost any type of fruit or vegetable most of the year as they are grown in greenhouses despite the efforts of certain supermarkets to tricks us by creating names of bogus farms. No that packet of potatoes was not grown on a farm run by a cheery,ruddy cheeked farmer and his family. The potatoes were grown on an industrial scale and packed in a bag branded to give the impression they come from a traditional farm.
I’m also sure that the flavour of some of the fruit in particluar is not as good as it was when it was grown according to season.
I live in Kent,a county in the south-east of England which has the nickname of “The Garden of England”. The county used to be renowned for its production of fruit and other produce.
You name it we used to grow it down here in the south-east. Among things Kent farms were known for were the many varieties of strawberries, apples, pears, hops, nuts and the distinctive “Napoleon” or “Kentish Nap” cherries which are red and yellow with firm flesh and a tangy flavour. For certain types of produce which need to be grown in larger quantities you had to look to the larger farms in East Anglia and Lincolnshire. Sadly many Kentish orchards have been ploughed under.
There is a road near where I live which used to have a large cherry orchard on one side of the road and an apple orchard on the other. Driving down it in late spring and summer the trees were laden with blossom and there was a pleasant smell if you had the car window open. Today, the cherry orchard has gone to make way for yet another golf course. Just what we needed as there are only twelve in the area including driving ranges. The apple orchard went to make way for a garden centre something else we also have too many of.
An increasing feature of the Kent countryside is the expansion of fields of oilseed rape plants with their distinctive bright yellow blossom and horrible aroma. Something else which can be blamed on the European Union which gives subsidies for this.
Today in our shops most of the strawberries are shipped in from abroad. They have little flavour and a rather odd shiny appearance which resembles plastic. Most of the cherries on sale are the dark red ones which are also shipped in from abroad. These also have little taste and are very watery. Then there are the apples. In the past there were many varities of English apple which each had a unique flavour.
The local supermarket has many varities of bright red apples or “Golden Delicious” which are watery with little flavour, In late autumn it is possible to buy Russet apples which do have a crunch and a good flavour. I’m fortunate in having two apple trees in my back garden – one is a Cox’s Orange Pippin which is very old and I think may have to be cut down as sadly the trunk has split and the tree is diseased in parts. The other tree only produces fruit every other year and I think may be a variety of Braeburn as the apples have a sweet taste with a hint of pear or aniseed drops.
Anyway back to the decline of the “Kentish Nap”. This used to be a personal favourite and is sorely missed. I suppose some people might argue that having particular fruits and vegetables available all year round is a good thing. Admittedly it does allow you to balance your diet which is a good thing. But I feel that we have lost something by not having food which is produced locally even if it is only available for a short duration. I did look into the viability of planting my own cherry tree but went off the idea as this is more complicated than you think. For pollination you need two trees of different types of cherry so I guess the only “Kentish Nap” in my house will be when I nod off in the armchair.