The current heatwave, together with the warmest UK spring on record, has helped bring about a bumper crop of British watermelons, according to Tesco.
The first of the crop of 6,000 watermelons, produced by Cambridgeshire grower Oakley Farms in Wisbech, is going on sale at around 100 Tesco stores from Friday 14 August, priced at £2.99, the same as imported.
Tesco said the extra heat has not only helped increase sweetness levels but also made the watermelons larger than normal. “Watermelons are still considered an exotic fruit that many people associate with palm trees and tropical island paradises rather than the British countryside," said Tesco's fruit technical manager James Cackett.
“But the quality of these UK-grown watermelons is so good that shoppers will not be able to taste the difference from the imported ones we get from Spain. This year the great weather over the last four months has brought about a more consistent quality than we’ve ever had before.”
Watermelons are more popular than ever, according to Tesco, which says it has seen a record-breaking near 20 per cent increase in demand so far this year.
Grower Nick Molesworth of Oakley Farms said that although the watermelons are grown undercover if the outside temperature is not warm enough, it will seriously affect growth, quality and sweetness levels.
“We’ve been producing watermelons for a few years now but this has been the best-ever growing season because of the amazing spring we’ve just had and the heatwave we’re enjoying right now," he explained.
“We did plant more seeds this spring but that is no guarantee for the number of watermelons you’ll get growing on each plant. This year the fantastic spring warmth helped the seeds germinate and also develop a better root system than ever before which made the whole plant stronger.”