Essex grower Peter Thompson has been given a Special Merit Award from the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers in recognition of recent trials looking to expand his cropping beyond traditional British topfruit such as apples and pears to include more exotic items like olives, figs and citrus.
He believes that climate change and longer seasons means that growers will be able to grow a range of non-traditional crops. He told attendees at the recent online National Fruit Show, “We are replanting our Braeburn, Conference and Opal orchards with olives and figs and we are expanding our citrus trials. We must find naturally sustainable crops that are going to fit with our climate. I’d like to achieve 20 per cent of my land planted with innovative crops in the next five years.”
Figs have been successfully grown in gardens in the UK for some time, as have crops like apricots. Peter planted his first olives in 2017-18 and produced a small amount of oil two years later. “We have 380 trees in these trials, and we are quite excited by the potential,” he said, explaining that varieties had come from around the world including France, Spain, Italy, New Zealand and even Japan.
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