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13 Jul 2017

Plum roll

Plums Lifestyle

British plums have hit Waitrose shelves a record two weeks early after an unusually balmy summer. Grown on a family-owned farm in Gloucestershire, this is the earliest British plums have ever been sold by a supermarket thanks to recent ‘near perfect’ growing conditions.  The right mix of weather over the last few weeks, which saw bright and warm days balanced with cooler evenings, has led to a much earlier launch this year.   

When most Brits think of homegrown summer fruits, strawberries, raspberries and cherries come to mind but plums deserve more credit according to Waitrose Fruit Buyer Tim Stevens.  He says, "British berries and cherries maybe the pin up fruits at this time of year but plums should get more love. They are a deliciously versatile choice and are a hardy fruit for lunch boxes, can be chopped over breakfast cereals or even barbecued for an easy pudding. 

"And there's no reason, this weekend, you shouldn't support this underdog British fruit by tucking into plums and cream when watching the tennis."

He continues, "Seeing a crop arrive two weeks early is a huge deal and shows just how good the weather has been for plums. You'd normally see changes of only a few days each season for any fruit, so two weeks is like two years in fruit farming."

Husband and wife team, Michael and Christiana Bentley of Castle Fruit Farms, have grown plums for Waitrose for 14 years and the farm's orchard has produced other fruits for the retailer for over 30 years. The earliest plum variety to arrive each year is the purple skinned Herman, which are harvested carefully by hand to prevent bruising so they are in perfect condition when they arrive into shops.

Says Michael Bentley, "The first plums we pick are from the tops of the trees, where the fruit has access to the most sun. The Herman variety has a very small stone that falls easily away from the flesh, making it fuss free to eat."

Later in the summer, Waitrose will stock an additional seven British varieties, and demand is expected to rocket as customers make the most of the short season.

The awareness and popularity of plums is growing every year. Last year sales rose by 137% when British varieties came into season and Waitrose is expecting the same this year, if not more according to recent recipe searches on their website (waitrose.com).  A recipe for a plum traybake has seen web searches increase by 78% this week versus last year as shoppers anticipate the fruit's return.

The first Waitrose British plums have launched into five of the supermarket's branches and as the season continues, the fruit will be in all Waitrose branches by 20 July. 

Between July and September Waitrose will stock an additional four varieties of British plums:

• Opal, an early variety with red mottled skin and sweet flavour
• Reeves Seedling, a beautiful yellow flesh plum with a reddish purple finish
• Victoria, the traditional yellow/pink blushed
• Marjorie Seedling, a dark purple variety which is harvested late in the season

For more information please contact:

Karla Graves
karla.graves@waitrose.co.uk
01344 825204

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