New apple drink hits shelves

With their knobbly bits and russeted skin, many historic Norfolk apples have fallen out of favour with consumers.But now there is a new way to enjoy them - a heritage drink making use of rare and threatened species of apples, which is available in selected Co-operative food stores.

With their knobbly bits and russeted skin, many historic Norfolk apples have fallen out of favour with consumers.

But now there is a new way to enjoy them - a heritage drink making use of rare and threatened species of apples, which is available in selected Co-operative food stores.

Norfolk Beefing, first recorded in 1807, Norfolk Beauty, first recorded in 1902, Norfolk Royal, first grown at North Walsham in 1908, and Norfolk Royal Russet, discovered in a garden in Burnham Overy Staithe in the 1980s, are all included in the Co-operative Farms Truly Irresistible Tillington 1,000 pressed apple juice.

They are joined by juice from Vicar of Beighton, first grown at Beighton, near Norwich, in 1894, Horsford Prolific, thought to have originated around 1900 and found in a garden at Horsford, near Norwich and Sandringham, first recorded in 1883.

Some of the 1,000 apple varieties used in the juice were threatened with extinction until the Co-operative Farms bought one of three identical collections 18 months ago, growing and harvesting the apples on its own fruit farm at Tillington, Herefordshire.

Christine Tacon, managing director of the Co-operative Farms, said: “These apples offer a real taste of British history. Many were in danger of disappearing forever, so to be able to turn them into a delicious and unique drink is very exciting. It is a great example of what the Co-operative can achieve, as both the UK's largest farming business and as a major food retailer.”

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The others were bought by the Prince of Wales and a private Scottish collector, but the Co-operative's collection the only one being put to a commercial use - around 10,000 one-litre bottles of the drink are available in Co-operative food stores.

The apple juice includes many varieties dating back to pre-Victorian times. Most were originally dessert apples, which eventually fell out of favour and became less fashionable than modern commercial varieties.

Among other rare varieties grown at Tillington, and included in the Heritage Apple Juice, are Isaac Newton's Tree - identical to and originating from the apple tree which inspired Sir Isaac Newton to discover gravity - Great Expectations, Fairie Queen, Northern Spy, Forty Shilling, Duck's Bill and Bloody Ploughman.

Truly Irresistible Tillington 1,000 apple juice will join the Grown by Us range - food and drink either grown by the Co-operative Farms or made using ingredients grown by the business.