Apple Picking with the Little Stour Orchard

It's not that often that I'm invited to go behind the scenes with one of my favourite independent food producers, but as someone fascinated and keen to know where her food comes from, it is certainly not an opportunity that I'm likely to pass up. 
When the boyfriend and I were invited along to help gather the very first harvest of distinctive, Kentish, Discovery apples at Little Stour Orchard, I couldn't wait to get stuck in.
I've long been a fan of LSO's apple cider vinegar, which is, hand on heart, the best apple cider vinegar that I've tried. It won "Best Kent Food Product" of the year in this year's Taste of Kent Awards and as it undergoes a completely natural fermentation process, without chemical interference, it offers all of the fantastic health benefits that I can often be found raving about (more on that another time).
Before I gave up sugar, I was also a huge fan of Little Stour Orchard's juices and ciders, which are truly authentic and taste beautiful. The cider is made on site using LSO's 180 year old oak cider press, whilst the small company were further recognised in the Taste of Kent Awards as Best Kent Juice Producer in both 2013 and 2014.

Picking apples with a small group of volunteers at LSO's orchards on the outskirts of Canterbury, gave me a chance to see their admirable ethos in action. None of the trees and fruit at LSO are sprayed with pesticides or other chemicals to promote unnatural growth, they're exactly as nature intended, with lumps and bumps, in a variety of sizes and shades. Wild flowers are free to grow, encouraging bees and other insects to live amongst the fruit trees, and sheep graze the 10 acre site throughout the year.
The Discovery apples that we picked will be used to produce this year's juice, which is guaranteed to be incredible, but the fruit itself is delicious. I have to admit to sneaking a couple of apples to keep me going, and I can honestly say that they were the tastiest, most appley apples I'd ever tried.
Read more about Little Stour Orchard, the natural, chemical free approach that they take to producing their fruit, juice, cider and vinegar, and their range of products here on their website.
I'm already looking forward to going back to the orchards in West Stourmouth to help bring in the Bramley harvest, and I'll be seeing the guys from LSO tomorrow at Thanet Farmer's Market, as well as at the Broadstairs Food Festival, which kicks off in a few weeks time.

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