More’s the pity that a frosty, snowy Christmas seems unlikely. It’s normal, though, as are the stresses and strains of preparing for the festivities and trying to remember what it’s all about among the last-minute minor crises. Will fruit become a last-minute crisis? There is no need! With Christmas on a Monday, there is plenty of time over the weekend to buy wonderful fruit, along with all the other fresh produce that you need. But what fruit should you buy for such a special occasion? Read on…….
FOR OUR CHRISTMAS FRUITBOWL, WE WOULD BUY:
- Lychee: South Africa and Madagascar
- Apples: Empire, Braeburn, Modi, Envy, Rubens, Smitten or Zari;
- Pears: Abaté Fétèl, Concorde, Rocha or Comice;
- Mandarins: Spanish Clemenules and Clemenvilla;
- Grapes: Cotton Candy, Sweet Celebration, Sable, Vitoria;
- Oranges: Beautiful Navelina from Spain;
- Persimmon: Rojo Brilliante from Spain;
Lychee: Luxurious lychee are the perfect treat for the Christmas table. The exotic sweetness of these fruit is irresistible once you start eating them. They can be pricey in supermarkets, though worth it for special occasions. However, Lidl often sell them loose at a very good price: it’s the best way to buy them as you can pick out the nice plump ones (best to call Lidl first to find out if the lychee are in your local store: 0800 977 7766)!
Grapes: While the seasons from Brazil and Peru continue, the first grapes from Namibia and South Africa are starting to arrive in stores. Grape volumes are slightly tighter than normal for this time of year, but there should be plenty available for Christmas.
All grapes will be satisfying from these four countries. However, for a Christmas treat, why not try the flavoursome newer varieties: black grapes, Sable and Vitoria (now widely available); red grape, Sweet Celebration, and green grape, Cotton Candy – they will be popular!
Apples: The Christmas apple does need some thought: it must obviously taste good, but also look impressive in the fruit bowl. A shiny red apple has always been the image to capture, but the traditional Washington Red Delicious doesn’t often inspire the taste buds. So, try a good Empire, either British or American, as a great alternative, or a Braeburn, an excellent balanced variety, which can also be full red. Modi, a new variety grown in Italy (in Asda) also has good texture and flavour, and an impressive colouration. Otherwise, if you are satisfied with a bicoloured apple, stick to the Good Fruit Guide favourites: Rubens (consistently in Tesco); Smitten (Morrisons, M&S, Waitrose), Zari (Sainsbury’s) and Envy (M&S, Waitrose), or the perfect pink of Pink Lady.
Pears: With the time to savour a good piece of fruit at the Christmas table, the ceremony of selecting and preparing a juicy Comice is not to be missed. The ‘Queen of Pears’ is one of the tastiest but messiest of fruit, and deserves some serious attention in peeling and consuming. Other pears to consider are Abaté Fétèl, Concorde and Rocha, all of which can be eaten crisp or soft.
Mandarins: Spanish clementine variety Clemenules, is a lovely mandarin and is the main variety on sale throughout the festive season. Retailers will use it in premium, standard and value packs, as well as for kids and with leaves still attached. Premium Clemenules are cosmetically more attractive, and should also be sweeter and juicier. However, there is usually nothing wrong with the other options, particularly at this time of year, other than size or skin marking, with ‘value’ fruit perhaps tasting a bit more inconsistent.
An impressive fruit to try, if you haven’t already, is the beautiful, firm and flavoursome Clemenvilla, often sold as a tangerine: difficult to peel, but worth the effort.
Satsumas: There will be both Spanish and Turkish Owari satsumas on sale which are wonderful as a plump, juicy, refreshing, though slightly more tangy mandarin.
Oranges: Spanish Navelina oranges are in perfect shape for Christmas as they are in peak season.
Berries: Raspberries from Spain and blueberries from the southern hemisphere are flavoursome, great quality and not outrageously expensive. Strawberries are mainly from Jordan and Egypt, often with uninspiring flavour as fresh fruit, but some new varieties are improving. Add any or all of these to a large creamy Pavlova with a few power-packed physalis berries, and you can’t fail to impress!
Persimmons: The wonderfully succulent and delicious Rojo Brilliante will be widely available and makes a great component of fruit salads or platters with its deep colour, sweetness and flavour.
Mangoes: Peruvian and Brazilian Kent are in peak season, and should ripen well to give a sweet, fleshy experience. Palmer from Brazil is the main alternative, usually with the better flavour.
Apricots, Peaches and Nectarines: The South African stone fruit season is well established with the best mid-season varieties. Quality should be good, with the final outcome of taste being more influenced by the skill of retailers and their suppliers than varietal choice.
Plums: Choice of plums is increasing as the South African season becomes established. There is no need to buy Angelino from Italy, as the fresh varieties, such as Flavorosa, African Rose and Pioneer are far superior. Just make sure they are kept at room temperature to ripen, and are good and soft to get the best eating quality.
Avocado: Hass and Fuerte from the early harvest of the Spanish avocado season will become increasingly available, but most Hass will be from Chile, Columbia and Dominican Republic. These are much later in their seasons, so the fruit will be slightly more dense and nutty.
Grapefruit: Florida Pink grapefruit should become more widely available, though Israel will dominate as the main source of high quality grapefruit.
Figs: Figs are mainly from Israel, either Brown Turkey or Autumn Honey: light, sweet and tasty.
Kiwi: Green kiwifruit, Hayward, are from Italy and Greece, while choice of yellow kiwi is better than ever with Italian Sungold, Soreli or Jingold: all with a tropical sweetness.
18th December, 2017
©Good Fruit Guide 2017. Information and data published on www.goodfruitguide.co.uk must not be reproduced or copied without permission of the editor. Recommendations on fruit varieties and types with the very best taste are personal to the editor of Good Fruit Guide, and do not attempt to be exhaustive or supported by verifiable consumer research. The highlighting of fruit with the very best taste in the opinion of the editor is not intended as a judgement on the taste of varieties and types of fruit not mentioned.