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Merton Fruit Festival: Celebrating London’s Fruit Growing Heritage

London’s lesser known heritage apple varieties will be ripe for tasting at this year’s Merton Fruit Festival, organised by The Orchard Project with support by Heritage Lottery Fund and Helping Britain Blossom, taking place on ‘Apple Day’, Saturday 21st October (1pm – 6pm, Mitcham Community Orchard & Garden).

One of a number of Apple Day events supported by Helping Britain Blossom across London, the Merton Fruit Festival will not only feature family fruit fun and games such as apple bobbing and juice making, it will also showcase traditional south London apple varieties such as Chad’s Favourite, Merton Beauty and Merton Charm which are not widely available in supermarkets and food outlets across the capital.

But thanks to a resurgence in demand for locally sourced food and support from organisations such as Helping Britain Blossom, a partnership between HEINEKEN and The Orchard Project which creates and restores community orchards, London’s heritage fruit varieties are being brought to the fore once more.

Explains Ryan O’Kane, Helping Britain Blossom’s London Project Manager: “Many people will be surprised to hear that London has a rich heritage of apple growing and some fantastic varieties not commonly found in mainstream supermarkets. This event is a great opportunity to get people learning about them and enjoying tasting them.

“But community orchards have so much more to offer as well, environmentally and socially, which is why Helping Britain Blossom is sharing their magic across the UK by helping local people create, restore and access orchards.”

Merton Fruit Festival is taking place in an area of London with a strong fruit growing and horticultural heritage, thanks to the John Innes Institute (of John Innes Composts fame) which was founded in 1910 in Merton, South London. Originally a training school for practical working gardeners and a national centre for horticultural ‘experiment and research’, for sixty years it was also a fruit-breeding research station which led to the release of eight commercial varieties of apples – many of which will be available for tasting at the festival.

Fruit expert David Chapman from the Merton Orchard Project and food historian Monica Askay will also be on hand at the event to talk to visitors about London’s (and Merton’s) fruit growing heritage.

Plus festival goers will be given a London heritage fruit map developed by The Orchard Project.

For families looking for a fun-filled day out, the Apple Day celebrations at Merton Fruit Festival will include:

· Apple bobbing races

· Cinnamon apple ring making

· Bike smoothie maker

· Fruity face painting

· Storytelling and rap performances

Other Apple Day Celebrations taking place across London include:

· Sat 14 Oct – Apple Day at Mayow Park – Sydenham/Forest Hill – apple tasting, storytelling, apple games and competitions and the launch of a new orchard sign

· Sat 28 Oct – Halloween Apple Day – Arnos Park Community Orchard & Growing Space – a Halloween adventure around the orchard with an outdoor storyteller, Halloween cloak and scary mask-making and apple tasting

In addition, Helping Britain Blossom has created a free downloadable interactive guide to Apple Day 2017 with ideas on fun activities you can do to celebrate British apple growing and community orchards in October. To download the guide click HERE.

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