Thirty years ago, the UK strawberry season was just 6 weeks. Today our strawberry season runs from Mid-March to late-November. The earliest and latest fruit comes from glasshouse and heated poly-tunnel production. All of our crops are grown under protection, which enables picking to continue in all weathers. Over 90% of our strawberries are grown out of the soil, in coir on table-tops or mini-table-tops. Around 1 in 5 strawberries sold in UK supermarkets come from Asplins PO growers.
Did you know? Coir comes from the outer husk of coconuts, which was a waste product prior to its use in crop production. Coir has replaced the use of peat on all of our farms and is far more environmentally friendly.
Strawberry varieties include Sweet Eve, Eves Delight, Murano and Malling Centenary.
Raspberries are a specialist crop with a very short shelf life. Asplins PO is one of the largest producers of raspberries in the UK, with over 30% of the market. As with strawberries, we have come a long way with extending the raspberry season. Our first fruit is picked in glasshouses from mid- May and the last picks can go as late as early December, depending on the season. Most of our production is in coir-filled pots and all grown under protection.
Raspberry varieties include Diamond Jubilee, Sapphire, Kwanza, Kweli and Glen Ample.
We are constantly looking for new and improved varieties of all of the fruits that we grow. To help this Asplins PO is a member of two world-renowned breeding programmes: The East Malling Strawberry Breeding Club and the James Hutton Raspberry Breeding Consortium. New varieties are trialled on member farms and the best ones become mainstay varieties.
Did you know? Raspberries are actually not individual berries, they are a cluster of many tiny fruits. Each raspberry contains about 100 tiny fruits, called drupelets. Each of these drupelets are filled with one seed. They form a helmet shape around a small stem, and when ripe raspberries are plucked, the stem remains on the plant and the fruit appears hollow.
Blackberries are something of a Cinderella crop in the UK; however with over 400 tonnes of production each season, we are significant suppliers across the multiples. We produce blackberries over a 7-month season, beginning with glasshouse production in early May and through a carefully planned mix of varieties and growing systems, culminating well into November depending on the season.
Blueberries are a relatively new crop for UK growers but their superfood status, snackability and all year round import availability has made them the fastest growing berry sector. We currently produce around 200 tonnes each season and this is set to increase significantly with new plantations. Blueberries are a longer-term growing proposition than other soft fruits with no crop for the first 2 years and they do not produce a full crop until year 4.
Did you know? The modern blueberry is a 20th century invention. Before the 1900s, the only way to enjoy these North American natives was to find them in the wild. Then, scientists started to unlock the secrets of cultivating blueberries — and we are glad they did!
We grow blackcurrants under contract to Suntory, owners of the Ribena brand. In a good year we produce up to 600 tonnes; in a poor year only 400. The difference is largely down to lack of winter chilling in some years. Blackcurrants need a lot more cold units than other fruits and climate change is playing havoc with this. Newer varieties are being bred with a lower chill requirement.
Blackcurrants for processing are machine harvested, which pick up to 90% of the crop on the bushes. Hand picking would be prohibitively expensive.
Did you know? Blackcurrants are a real superfood. They contain 4 times more vitamin C than oranges, double the antioxidant level of blueberries, as well as high levels of soluble and insoluble fibre which is good for gut health, plus glucose and fructose for energy.
Redcurrants are very popular in Belgium, but not grown widely on a commercial level in the UK. As a niche product, they can be profitable to the extent that there is customer demand and not beyond that. We produce around 15 tonnes annually in a season that runs for roughly 8 weeks from late-June.
Rhubarb is another niche crop for which demand has varied over the years. Currently we only grow a small amount – around 8 tonnes annually – for one supermarket customer, focussing on early season from mid-March to mid-May.
Did you know? The word rhubarb comes from the Latin word “rhababarum” which means “root of the barbarians.” The Romans labelled anyone who ate rhubarb “barbarians”. Rhubarb is technically a vegetable, just as tomatoes are technically fruit.