An Explosion of Grapes: The miraculous offer of tasty fresh fruit is ever changing, and August is no exception. This week there is an incredible array of new grape varieties available from Spain, fresh English apples and plums, sumptuous greengages and early pears from Europe – we are spoilt for choice!
FOR OUR FRUITBOWL, WE HAVE BOUGHT:
- Grapes: Huge range of new varieties from Spain;
- European Plums: Soft varieties from England;
- Greengages: Spanish & Portuguese Reine Claude;
- Apples: New season Discovery;
- Peaches & Nectarines: Still good from the Mediterranean;
- Berries: Every conceivable type, all from UK;
- Pears: Carmen from Italy;
- Mandarins: Orri from South Africa.
Grapes: There is an astonishing range of the new sweet and flavoursome grape varieties on sale from Spain. These have been planted over the past few seasons and are now starting to yield enough volume for retailing, which makes the grape choice really interesting for consumers.
Most familiar are Cotton Candy, Sable, Vitoria (from Brazil), Strawberry and K2 Mango which all have something extraordinary about them. Cotton Candy, Strawberry and Sable are widely available, but for the rest you will need to visit Tesco, M&S or Waitrose for any certainty. Also look out for any variety in the ‘Candy’ range, e.g. Candy Heart, Candy Crunch, etc. These are a group of 5 or 6 new varieties with high levels of sweetness, often with subtle flavours, which are beginning to appear in stores but so far lack consistent volumes.
If these are not available locally, there are also plenty of new ‘sweet or crisp’ varieties to try, such as: red varieties Krissy, Jack’s Salute, Sweet Celebration, Timco, Magenta; white varieties Ivory; Timpson.
European Plums: English plums have been available for several weeks, but the finer mid-season varieties are now in shops. These have lovely softness and succulence in contrast to the more common Japanese plums (see below) from the Mediterranean. Look out for Jubileum, Excalibur and Reeves, which will be joined by Victoria before long.
Greengages: The annual treat of delicious honey-rich greengages is upon us. Several of the early varieties have already finished from UK orchards, but supermarkets concentrate on Reine Claude. This is the main variety traded from Europe which is now in many stores, currently from Portugal and Spain.
Apples: The English apple season has been brought forward slightly by the hot weather and many interesting and tasty early varieties can be found in farm shops and market stalls in apple-growing areas. In supermarkets, the only early variety ever sold is Discovery, a beautiful pink apple with white flesh and a fragrant, perfumed aroma: remember that these do not store well, so are best eaten within 3 days of purchase.
Peaches and Nectarines: Spanish and Italian peaches and nectarines are still in mid-season, so eating quality should be lovely.
Flat peach prices: Asda now has the cheapest flat peaches (13-16p/fruit) as Tesco’s price has gone up (to 20-25p/fruit), though this still represents good value, as in most other retailers. M&S and Waitrose continue at +50p/fruit, pretty much for the same type.
Strawberries: UK strawberries continue to be abundant with good eating quality. Pretty much all retailers are selling a variety called Driscoll Amesti in big packs: cheapest in Waitrose and Morrisons at £3.50/kg.
Varieties used in premium packs are Ava Star (soft, aromatic), Murano, Driscoll Jubilee and Driscoll Zara.
Other Berries: All raspberries, blackberries, currants, gooseberries and blueberries are available from UK farms, and quality is very good (if they have been handled properly). Good blueberries are also coming from Poland and Peru (in Sainsbury’s).
Don’t forget the abundant wild blackberries in the hedgerows: delicious and free!
Cherries: Plump UK cherries continue to be plentiful and delicious as production moves north (and fruit is sold from cold stores).
Picota stalkless cherries from Spain are the best value on the market at under £4.00/kg in many stores (Aldi, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Tesco)(Asda Farm Stall – £6.45/kg).
Melons: Prices of Spanish and Italian melons are starting to creep up again, but Galia in Tesco and Sainsbury’s continues to be very good value (65p/85p). The very high temperatures experienced recently in Spain may have an impact on eating quality, reducing flavour slightly, but melons are still worthy of every fruit bowl!
The Good Fruit Guide favourites for taste are: Piel de Sapo, Charantais and the new speciality varieties (Tesco: Sweet Snowball; Sunkiss Honeydew; Sweet Tangy Twist; Finest Charantais. M&S: Orange Candy Honeydew. Waitrose: Matice; Orange Candy Honeydew).
Mandarins: The best mandarin on sale is Orri from South Africa: easy to peel, sweet and finely flavoured (seen in M&S and Tesco). Nadorcott and Tangold (Tango) from both South Africa and Peru are also great varieties and taking over as the main offer in supermarkets (expect sweetness with a zing). South African Nova and Clemenules are coming to an end, evident in the latter particularly being variable in flavour.
Soft, juicy Minneola Tangelo from Peru have been spotted in Aldi and Tesco.
Pears: The displays of pears in most retailers lack vibrancy at this time of year: many having only last season’s Conference from Belgium and Holland on offer, while bigger stores may stretch to Packham’s Triumph from South Africa. Only M&S and Waitrose make much effort, generally with good quality Forelle and Abaté Fétèl.
However, the early pears from southern Europe are starting to arrive, which will add interest. Varieties such as Morettini and Guyot offer freshness and fragrance for pear lovers, but one to watch is the lovely blushed Carmen from Italy (seen in Asda), an excellent new variety with firm flesh and an interesting acid balance.
As a result of the heatwave, we may soon see the new season Conference on sale: it will look green and fresh, and may be quite hard to bite into!
Mangoes: It may be just bad luck, but stocks of delicious Israeli mangoes seem very sparse this year. Hopefully this will change soon, but in the meantime the choice is generally of Keitt is from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Columbia, and Kent from Senegal.
Excellent, sweet Chaunsa mangoes from Pakistan are in selected Asda stores (£5/box) and good Asian grocers – don’t miss them as the season draws to a close.
Japanese Plums: ‘Japanese’ types are grown in the Mediterranean and are the main type of plum available all year – round, smooth and of a range of skin and flesh colours. These are cheapest in punnets, but require ripening at home which can have variable success as less care about maturity is taken by retailers. Better to buy these plums in ripe-and-ready-to-eat packs, and target improved varieties such as Metis Oxy Solar, Iridis and Carolina.
Apricots: English apricots have been spotted in M&S and Tesco: there should be a good chance of success with quality, if you let them ripen properly.
Oranges: Lovely Navels and Navellates from South Africa are in most stores, and M&S is selling the slightly blushed Cara Cara which is well worth trying.
Valencia Lates are on sale from Spain, Morocco and South Africa: it’s easy to get them mixed up, so make sure you know what you are buying by reading the label (those from South Africa will be fresher, perhaps a little more tangy).
20th August, 2018
©Good Fruit Guide 2018. Information and data published on www.goodfruitguide.co.uk must not be reproduced or copied without permission of the editor. Ratings and 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.