CHEF Raymond Blanc is probably our best-loved Frenchman. A champion of culinary excellence and a man who has helped transform eating habits in this country.

But the patron of the two-Michelin star Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons is also a fan of real food and passionate about good local produce – and, in particular, fruit. And there are few things he enjoys more than a good apple.

With harvest time here and British growers expected to hand-pick 1.6 billion apples and pears, he has called on us to make the most of it and tuck into our local fruit – among the best on the planet.

“For me, some of the greatest tasting apples in the world are British,” he says.

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“The start of the season gives us the perfect opportunity to showcase British apples and pears and to talk about the fantastic varieties available right here on our doorstep.

“I am extremely proud to be working alongside British growers. When we remind people of just how wonderful the humble British apple is. I know everyone will be as excited about British apples as I am.”

Raymond has leant his support to a campaign to promote the Great British apple season, which begins on Monday.

Raymond’s dedication to British apples led him to plant his own orchard of 2,500 trees in the grounds of his hotel and restaurant in Great Milton. His latest book, The Lost Orchard, reveals the process of his creating this orchard and reconnecting with some iconic British varieties.

He said he was hoping for a renaissance of British growing, with a greater reliance on very local produce – communities growing more of their own food.

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“In some supermarkets you don’t see one British apple,” he says. “We need to see a rebirth of agriculture. Some beautiful British varieties have gone and we need to bring them back.”

This year’s season follows a challenging season for British apple and pear farmers, with fluctuating weather conditions and the continuing impact of Covid-19, but this year’s apple harvest is expected to be especially delicious.

A staggering 1.6 billion apples and pears (183,000 tonnes) picked by hand in British orchards. And, according to the organisation that represents British growers, British Apples & Pears Limited, it’s our farming methods and maritime climate that make our apples and pears “the best tasting in the world.”

The organisation’s chief executive, Ali Capper, said: “Britain is the greatest apple nation in the world.

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“We have the perfect combination of the ideal maritime climate, centuries of orchard experience and a commitment to innovation that enables our apple and pear varieties to flourish – delivering delicious healthy, home-grown fruit for everyone to enjoy.

“With the weather challenges this year, it may not be the biggest harvest we’ve ever had, but it will certainly be one of the best tasting.”

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He adds: “Chef Blanc is a true titan of Britain’s food scene and the perfect person to remind us all that a British apple a day not only delivers us great health benefits, but it’s supporting British farmers too.”

At less than 80 calories each, fibre-rich apples are great for gut health and are one of the best fruits to protect us from heart attacks and strokes.

Raymond Blanc’s The Lost Orchard: A French chef rediscovers a great British food heritage, is out now. Book for Le Manoir at