The best fresh fruit on sale in August.
August: summer holidays, beaches, warmth, picnics, long country walks, balmy evenings, outdoor living, barbeques, all enhanced by sumptuous, luxuriant fruit. This is the month for indulging in the opulence of the summer offering. There is nothing quite like the honeyed sweetness of greengages or the juicy fleshiness of peaches or the fragrance of strawberries, except perhaps the sheer delight of plump, irresistible cherries. No other month is quite the same in its choice of fruit, to which you can add Spanish and Italian grapes and melons as they enter their prime, lovely South African mandarins and oranges, and even great lychee and mango from Israel. Read on for hints and tips on your favourite fruit types:
For My Fruit Bowl, I Would Buy:
- Greengages: Reine Claude from Portugal, Spain, UK & France
- Cherries: From UK
- Peaches & Nectarines: From Spain & Italy
- Blueberries: From UK, Poland & Holland
- Raspberries: From UK
- Grapes: Cotton Candy, Candy Snaps, Sable, Sweet Celebration from Egypt, Spain & Italy
- Tangerines: Nova and Orri from South Africa
- Apples: Envy from New Zealand & South Africa
- Mangoes: Aya, Maya, Shelley from Israel
- Persimmons: Triumph from South Africa
- Lychee: Mautirius from Israel
There is little change in the selection of apples on sale in August, with the majority of year-round varieties coming from southern hemisphere countries: all with their own unique characteristics, all continuing with good quality in supermarkets.
The only slight variations are the favoured options of each retailer. Tesco, for example, often sell UK-grown Magic Star/Kentish Kiss and Jonagold; M&S have German Rocket and US Red Delicious; while Waitrose and Morrisons offer South African Cripps Red. Of the newest varieties, M&S and Waitrose have crisp, sweet Envy from South Africa or New Zealand.
By the end of August, the new European harvest of early varieties is underway, which we will see mainly as Gala from France and Spain, or early Discovery from British orchards. The latter, along with other old, early British varieties, is particularly worth buying for its tangy fragrance, though they need to be fresh to experience the best flavour.
In early August, there will be British apricots on sale to supplement the Spanish, French and Italian supplies. These can be excellent, depending on the growing conditions, while the European fruit should continue to be very tasty as long as they ripen properly.
All supermarkets are selling Hass avocados from Peru with additional supply from South Africa. These are excellent quality and ideal for summer eating. Some independent stores, and occasional supermarkets, may also have green-skinned South African Fuerte, which has a slightly lighter texture and taste.
Blackberries continue to be excellent and are all from UK growers. The big, sweet Driscoll Victoria is the most common variety on sale, but a wider range of varieties is appearing in stores with the more tangy traditional varieties, such as Karaka Black and Lochness, being an option. These tend to have greater flavour definition, though are perhaps not ideal for the sweet-toothed among us. Sainsburys should be acknowledged for making an effort to distinguish between sweet-eating and tangy varieties with stickers on punnets.
British blueberries become widely sold in August, though additional volumes are still needed from Europe, principally Poland, Germany and Holland.
As with blackberries and raspberries, ‘value’ packs often contain the older varieties, which can have more of an acid tang. Quality should be very good, but it is always worth checking the berries for signs of softness, wrinkling or mould, and resisting the temptation to keep them in the fridge for more than 2-3 days.
Wonderful British cherries are in full flow and widely available in all stores. This is the time to indulge in these beautiful fruit, particularly as prices come down with the extra volumes on sale. It is worth paying slightly more for the larger, fleshier cherries, and also buying more than you think you will need.
The stalkless Picota cherry from Jerte Valley in Spain is a very tasty ‘value’ alternative: normally £1 per 250g punnet and often a better bet than cheap, small-fruited standard cherries.
Spanish, Israeli and Peruvian figs are on sale in various supermarkets. The eating quality should be satisfactory but take care to select the most coloured fruit when buying. Prices are still quite high until the Turkish season of Bursa figs starts at the end of the month.
August brings a shift in grape production from Egypt to Spain and Italy. With the European growers entering their main season, the choice of varieties increases dramatically, and, for consumers, confusingly. Brazil also continues to supply its unique black grapes, Vitoria and Sweet Jubilee, favoured by some retailers (notably Waitrose).
The wide choice of varieties makes it rather pointless to try to pick and choose those in the standard red/green/black packs. However, some examples of stand-out varieties which have very enjoyable sweetness, texture or flavour, are as follows:
Red Grapes: Sweet Celebration, Magenta and Timco for texture and sweetness; Candy Snaps, Sweet Nectar, Tropical Mango and Strawberry for flavour and sweetness.
Black Grapes: Candy Dreams, Sable and Vitoria for flavour and sweetness; Melody for texture and sweetness.
Green Grapes: Cotton Candy for flavour and sweetness; Sugar Crisp and Sweet Globe for texture and sweetness.
South African White Marsh Seedless and the main red variety, Star Ruby, continue in August, alongside occasional sales of pink grapefruit. These are delicious grapefruit, especially as main retailers source the fruit from the hot low-lying areas of north-east South Africa and Eswatini.
Some Florida Pink may still be on sale, but August is very late for northern hemisphere grapefruit which may not taste particularly fresh.
One of the best fruit of the annual calendar, Greengages (mostly variety Reine Claude) are the star of the August fruit offer. Starting from Portugal and Spain, but soon from France and UK, these rather dull looking plum-type fruit are full of honeyed sweetness and succulence, such that you always want another.
Green Hayward kiwifruit continues from New Zealand and Chile. The choice of yellow kiwifruit is mainly the very attractive New Zealand, Sungold. Jintao from Chile is the alternative which tends to have slightly more acidity.
LOQUAT (MEDLAR) Update:
Delicious loquats from Spain, extremely susceptibility to bruise, may be found in some independent grocery stores: very worth trying for their unique flavour, but pick them yourself to avoid the bruising.
Smooth-skinned, juicy South African Eureka, sometimes in seedless form (e.g. in M&S, Tesco), dominates supermarket sales in August.
The Mauritius variety of lychee comes from Israel in August and is sold by larger supermarkets. At best, this is a supremely flavoursome and luscious fruit, but try to avoid punnets with small or mixed sizes as these have less impressive taste.
Mandarins are not necessarily top of the list of fruit for summer eating, competing as they do, against so much else. However, the quality and flavour of the South African and Peruvian options is very good, and some varieties are just delicious. In this category falls Nova and Orri, both of which are often sold as tangerines and both of which have sublime eating quality. The Nova is quite tough to peel without nicking the top with a sharp blade, but is worthy of the effort.
As August unfolds, Clemenules, the main mandarin variety, gives way to Nadorcott and Tangold which will dominate sales until late September once Spanish clementines are fully available. Nadorcott is an excellent mandarin with lovely late-season depth of flavour. Minneola Tangelo from Peru is another interesting variety to be found (usually in Tesco): very soft and juicy, quite tangy, but flavoursome.
August mango options in supermarkets are actually quite good. By now, the Caribbean and West African seasons have settled into reliable quality, so customers can have faith that the fruit will ripen well and have good sweetness. Then, as the month progresses, the first Israeli mangoes start to appear. Israel has a unique selection of varieties with particularly fine eating qualities and vibrant appearance. These are certainly superior to the standard Kent and Keitt, so look out for Aya, Maya, Shelley, Kasturi and Noa as the season unfolds
For those near a South Asian grocery store (Ilford, Tooting, Luton, Leicester, etc), you may be able to find Pakistani Honey mangoes by the box. These are mostly the delicious Chaunsa, though check the box for quality as the season draws to an end. Other interesting mangoes available in the independent sector may be Mexican Ataulfo, or new season fruit from Egypt.
Melons are one of the great summer fruits and continue to be excellent in August from Spain or Italy. The choice is most stores is good, and even the cheapest option, usually Honeydew, are likely to have good, sweet eating quality.
The most reliably sweet types tend to be Piel de Sapo and Ivory Gaya melon (aka Sweet Snowball, Matice or Sugar Baby, depending on the retailer). Ivory Gaya is no longer restricted to Tesco and Waitrose, but try to find the larger melons as the small fruit are less likely to have the high levels of sweetness.
Gwanipa (aka Sweet Tangy Twist); the various improved honeydew types (e.g. Sweet Orange Delight, Orange Candy, etc); and tangy Limelon are also on sale in some larger supermarkets and are well worth trying.
One of the best melons in August is Charantais, famed for its soft, juicy flesh, aroma and flavour. The best Charantais come from France, but most stocks in the supermarkets will be from Spain: eating quality should be good if you can smell the delicious aroma.
South African Navels are the main orange on sale during August, with later season variants such as Navellates becoming available. These are fine eating oranges, full of juice and flavour. The Valencia Late from South Africa will also start to appear: slightly acidic at first, but a great all-rounder of an orange and excellent for juicing.
PEACH & NECTARINE Update:
August is, perhaps, the best month of the year for peaches and nectarines: just the perfect fruit for hot summer days. These will be from Spain, Italy or France and should be reliable for ripening and eating quality. The best options are the larger, pre-ripened fruit on which retailers stake their reputation for quality: truly luscious when at their best.
Choices of pears in August is somewhat depleted. In most stores there will only be Conference from Holland (from the 2020 harvest) or Packham’s Triumph from South Africa and Argentina: both are good pear varieties, with the latter having the edge on flavour. Waitrose and M&S may continue with crispy, sweet Forelle and Abaté Fétèl (which can also be eaten crisp soft), which are delicious fruit, though fairly expensive at this stage.
Towards the end of August, the first early pears from Europe will start to appear, including Morettini and Carmen from Italy and Guyot from France. These are pears to be eaten once softened, which have relatively subdued levels of sweetness, but an attractive, light, fragrant flavour.
South African Triumph persimmons continue into August: an intensely sweet and flavoursome fruit that can be eaten when soft or hard.
Probably the most flavour-packed and vibrant fruit that can be found in supermarkets (usually Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsbury’s), Physalis is grown in Columbia and is wonderful on its own, accompanying cheese, mixed with other berries, or as an addition to desserts.
There are many good plums varieties from Spain and Israel in August (e.g Primetime, Iridis, Metis Oxy Solar, Metis Safari Star, FlavorKing, etc), so it is a time of plenty with particularly good prices.
More interesting for patriotic fruitarians is the British plum season which spans much of August and early September. These are ‘European’-type plums with short seasons, short shelf-life and a relatively small number of varieties. They are oval in shape, generally purple in colour and have delicious soft, juicy, sweet flesh which intensifies in the later varieties. The season goes by quite quickly and starts with early varieties such as Opal, Katinka and Juna, and moves on to mid-to-late varieties such as Reeves, Jubileum and Avalon, and the well-known Victoria.
With all raspberries coming from UK farms, quality remains wonderful in August, with good prices and widespread choice of varieties.
Newer varieties that have been bred for sweetness and firmness, include Malling Bella, Driscoll Maravilla, Diamond Jubilee, Berry Gem and Berry Jewel.
The more tangy traditional varieties include varieties such as Glen Ample, Octavia and Glen Lyon. By looking at the punnet labels you may find these on the shelves, or try the supermarket ‘value’ packs which tend to contain the cheaper, older varieties.
Satsumas become more scarce in August as the main varieties from South Africa and Peru are finished. However, increasingly, there are greater volumes of late varieties available, Bela Bela being one such example. These are tasty fruit though without the very soft succulence of the earlier varieties.
An abundance of strawberries continues in August, which is also a very good time for value as supermarkets sell large packs a reasonable prices. Quality should continue to be excellent, but these are short-life fruit which need eating within a day or two of purchase.
With so many varieties potentially on sale, the best way to buy is to look for good deep colour, even sizes and lack of bruising.
If you see some of the latest varieties, they offer a chance of greater sweetness and flavour. Look out for Malling Centenary and the Driscoll range of varieties (Lusa, Elizabeth, Katrina, Solari), as well as Magnum, Ania, Sweet Eve and Eve’s Delight, among others.
©Good Fruit Guide 2021. 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.