We are left in no doubt that Christmas is around the corner: supermarkets are already loading up aisles with mountains of produce and there is still over three weeks to go. I always feel slightly unnerved by the sight, as though I need to start buying in case the crucial piece of fruit runs out. But Fear Naught, there will be plenty on sale at just the right time for good shelf-life and quality. As December begins, we are starting to see our choices for the festive season, but there are two major seasons yet to hit our shelves: grapes from South Africa and Namibia, and southern hemisphere plums.
FOR OUR FRUITBOWL, WE WOULD BUY:
- Lychee: South Africa and Madagascar
- Apples: Envy, Rubens, Smitten and Zari;
- Pears: Delicious Abaté Fétèl, Concorde and Comice;
- Mandarins: Spanish Clemenules and Clemenvilla;
- Grapes: Cotton Candy, Sable and Vitoria from Brazil;
- Blueberries: Lovely southern hemisphere quality;
- Persimmon: Rojo Brilliante or Sharonfruit from Spain;
- Mango: Haden & Palmer from Brazil.
Lychee: No other fruit arriving in our green and pleasant land evokes the exotic and excites the taste buds like a lychee. It’s a very seasonal fruit, and we are just starting the time of greatest availability through the year with supply from South Africa and Mozambique. Prices are high at present, but such are the volumes over the next few weeks, that most of us should be able to enjoy this delicious treat at half-way reasonable prices.
Grapes: Brazil and Peru are now the main source of grapes, offering plenty of good quality fruit. Pick of the bunch for flavour or unique texture/taste combinations are: black grapes, Sable and Vitoria (now widely available); red grape, Sweet Celebration (seen in Morrisons), and green grape, Cotton Candy (just appearing in stores): delicious!
Apples: To add to Rubens (consistently in Tesco); Smitten (Morrisons, M&S, Waitrose), and Zari (Sainsbury’s), another of the interesting new varieties has started to appear in stores: Envy (M&S, Waitrose). Like Pink Lady and Jazz, these are registered ‘Club’ varieties with controlled production and quality standards. Envy, though not widely available at present, is a very enjoyable addition with a lovely texture and taste combination.
Pears: The choice of pears continues to be magnificent. In addition to the four Good Fruit Guide favourites, Abaté Fétèl, Concorde, Comice and Rocha, look out for other tasty varieties such as Piqa Reo (in Waitrose), English Taylor’s Gold, a russet Comice (in Sainsbury’s) and Xenia (in Morrisons).
Mandarins: Spanish clementine variety Clemenules, is entering its peak season, which will continue throughout Christmas: these are lovely mandarins. An especially fine clementine from Morocco called Fina is also in some stores, particularly in Kids packs due to small fruit size (check labels for variety names). Also, don’t forget the beautiful, firm and flavoursome Clemenvilla, often sold as a tangerine: difficult to peel, but worth the effort.
Satsumas: Spanish Owari satsumas are gradually giving way to those from Turkey which will stretch the season into the new year. These are still plump, juicy and refreshing, though often with slightly more tanginess.
Blueberries: Large amounts of blueberries from the southern hemisphere continue to be great quality and at good prices. Don’t leave the larger berries for more than 2-3 days in the fridge as the texture can often become unpleasantly soft.
Persimmons: Rojo Brilliante and the flatter Sharonfruit are now wonderfully delicious. The early fruit has been sold, and the more mature fruit is now available, with deeper colour, sweetness and flavour. Greater maturity means easier softening, which gives the option of enjoying the sweetness of this tasty fruit in jelly-like form.
Cherimoya: Try something different and treat yourself to our great ‘missed opportunity’ of fresh flavour: only in large Asda stores and local ethnic groceries.
Oranges: Spanish navel oranges are in all stores, mostly Navelina, but some are the slightly superior Fukumoto type. These are both a fine eating orange, perhaps with a little early-season tang at present, but getting better and better.
Mangoes: Brazilian Kent are joining Keitt and Palmer as the main choice of mangoes. These are decent mangoes, with Palmer usually with the best flavour. Morrisons have been selling Brazilian Haden (£2.40 each, The Best range) which are quite different: a lovely appearance, and deep orange flesh with a strong aroma and flavour: worth a try!
Grapefruit: Florida Pink grapefruit are a highlight of the winter, and are just starting to appear. These may be a bit scruffy on the outside (due to moist, tropical growing conditions), but are sublime in their juicy sweetness. Otherwise, Israeli grapefruit are of a very good standard.
Figs: All figs are 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.
Avocado: The Spanish avocado season is gradually gaining momentum with green-skinned Fuerte (Sainsburys, Tesco, Waitrose) as the alternative to Hass from Chile.
Apricots, Peaches and Nectarines: South African stone fruit are available in all stores. The distance of travel for these fruit brings some uncertainty to any guarantee of sweetness, though good flavour on ripening is usually assured. In supermarkets, the more you pay, the better the result as the four-packs and ripe n’ ready fruit are more carefully selected.
Plums: The new season plums from South Africa have started to arrive, with the very first variety, Suplum41, seen in Tesco and Asda. Old season Angelino will continue for a while longer, but expect more fresh varieties with improving taste to arrive shortly.
3rd 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.