Dane Lotte Garner and her New Zealander husband, Andrew, started Southern Alps in Kent, slow-drying fruit without additives, after her youngest son developed asthma as a reaction to the additives in dried fruit. In addition, a friend of the Garners’, who ate large quantities of ‘healthy’ dried apricots, developed cramps. ‘The doctor said it was the sulphur used. She’d forgotten to look at the ingredients and, of course, dried fruit used to be eaten in baking and was, consequently, diluted,’ says Mrs Garner. Southern Alps, named after the New Zealand mountains where the two met when both were mechanical engineers, was born seven years ago after they had their first baby.They wanted to work together as a family. ‘We started with a little drier in my kitchen.I found we needed to dry the fruit more to avoid additives, so 10kg of apples will produce only 1kg of dried fruit.’
Now, with stockists all over the world, Southern Alps buys fruit from Iran, South America and Burkina Faso in Africa and dries on site (which makes sense because dried fruit is so much lighter to transport). Mrs Garner insists that the drying is done to her specification ‘We search for someone who will accommodate us’ and in Burkina Faso, the firm also helps the impoverished widows and adult orphans who pick their mangoes, helping to educate them.After three years, they know enough to set up their own businesses.
The dried fruit comes in numbered packs, and, as well as mixes with seeds and nuts, includes pure apples, figs, mangoes, pineapples, strawberries, bananas, mulberries and pears. They’re deliciously chewy and seem to concentrate the taste of each fruit. They’re stocked by some larger Tesco stores and can be mail ordered on 01474 871275. The website, www.southern-alps.co.uk, gives details.
Harvey Nichols is selling a special Slow Box at £14.50, which has 10 different fruits. A good starter pack or present.