The first new season apples and pears, greengages, English plums, and wild blackberries starting in the hedgerows are all signs of late summer, and all signs of changes to great flavour in fruit, if you know where to look!
FOR OUR FRUITBOWL, WE WOULD BUY:
- Plums & Greengages: English plums; French and Spanish gages
- Melons: New varieties from Spain and Italy
- Berries: Blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, strawberry
- Mandarins: Nadorcott and Orri from South Africa & Peru
- Mangoes: Israeli Maya and Shelley; Pakistani Honey mango
- Grapes: Flavoursome new varieties from Spain
- Lychee & Mangosteen: Exotic flavour from Israel & Thailand
Plums: The season for British soft plums has been under way for a couple of weeks with Opal, the first mainstream variety. Expect to see Jubileum and Reeves, and others, over the next weeks, with Victoria plums not far away: soft, succulent and sweet!
There are many other plums available from Spain and Israel. Varieties in punnets should be good at this time of year, though sometimes a bit hit-and-miss for flavour. Pay a bit more for varieties such as FlavorKing, or supermarket premium brands, and you should enjoy them very much. Remember to let them soften nicely.
Greengages: One of the real pleasures of late summer are sweet, honeyed greengages. These are now in the shops from Portugal, Spain and France, a variety called Reine Claude. They should be delicious, but seek out the fruit with a slightly yellow tinge to the pale green.
Early British greengages, such as Cambridge, are also being sold, but flavour needs a bit longer to develop.
Cherries: British cherries are still plentiful, good to eat, but coming to an end soon. There are some good deals to be had in supermarkets: 1kg trays of Karina have been spotted in M&S (£5/kg) and Tesco (£4/kg), while Waitrose have a 700g tray (£6.43/kg).
Picota cherries are still on sale in Asda, and probably worth avoiding!
Melons: With the peak of the melon season from Spain and Italy come a number of different options and new varieties that are well worth trying: look out for Sweet Tangy Twist, Honeymoon, Sweet Snowball and Sweet Sunkiss melons in Tesco, and Orange Candy Honeydew in M&S: you will be surprised! Also worth buying are Sugar Baby melons in Morrisons, and Charantais melons, wherever you can find them: delicious.
All standard melons are in good shape, generally very satisfying and on promotion.
Strawberries, Blackberries and Raspberries: All the main berries are still home-grown, and quality continues to be excellent.
Look out for wild blackberries in the hedgerows (take a plastic bag on walks, just in case): there is nothing quite like their taste, particularly with a dollop of Cornish clotted cream!
Blueberries: Blueberries are now principally from central Europe (Poland, Romania, etc), but the Scottish season will be underway as well. All should be fresh, firm and sweet.
Mangoes: Look out for Israeli mangoes for the best experience: both Maya (Sainsbury’s – £1, Tesco – 2 for £2.50) and Shelley (seen in Asda) are lovely, silky-sweet varieties. Honey mango from Pakistan is still the best though: available from Asian groceries.
Mandarins: The excellent Nadorcott mandarin from South Africa, Argentina and Peru is now taking over as the main option in most stores. Orri, another wonderful mandarin, is also worth buying (usually in M&S, Tesco, Waitrose).
Minneola Tangelo is one of those fruit that has a small, but dedicated following. It is very juicy, with a slight tang: only in Tesco (from Peru).
Grapes: Spanish and Italian grapes are now mainstream, with a plethora of sweet, crisp varieties on offer at good prices.
For grapes with flavour, the ‘speciality’ choice is excellent, and prices are not too bad: Strawberry, Mango K2, Sable, Cotton Candy and Sweet Mayabelle are all in this group and should now be very satisfying, with early season acids diminishing. Most stores, including M&S, sell these at the equivalent to £5/kg (Waitrose £6.15), though Aldi may be a tad cheaper.
Lychee & Mangosteen: Great tropical flavour!
Israeli lychee are in most supermarkets at slightly ridiculous prices, but there isn’t much that betters the flavour, so they are a very valid treat (best value: Morrisons – £8.82/kg, Sainsburys – £9.50/kg, Asda – £10.00/kg).
One of the favourite fruits of SE Asia, mangosteen from Thailand, is occasionally available in Asda, but mainly in ethnic grocery stores: delicious exotic taste.
Apples: Discovery apples, freshly harvested from English orchards, are in the shops. We are on the count-down to Autumn! This is the earliest of English varieties to be sold by supermarkets, and is a very fragrant, white-fleshed, perfumed fruit with a pleasing tangy sweetness. Best eaten within three days of harvest, so don’t let them sit, unappreciated, in the fruit bowl.
Pears: Abaté Fétèl and Forelle are still the pick of pear varieties on sale, but the first European pears of the new season are appearing. Portuguese Morettini (seen in Asda) and Italian Santa Maria (seen in Waitrose) are true early varieties and are lightly flavoured, fragrant fruit. Be a little more cautious of new Rocha and Green Williams (seen in Morrisons), both seem too early to be on our shelves and may be disappointing.
Peaches and Nectarines: Peaches and nectarines, including the flat variants, are still plentiful from Spain, also from France and Italy. The fruit should be sweet, flavoursome and at its best, but the larger fruit will be more consistent.
Apricots: British, Spanish and French apricots are available everywhere. As ever, we are dependent on retailers getting the variety and quality right, but they should still be good.
It was interesting to read Waitrose Food’s honesty about apricots: when they don’t deliver satisfaction, poach them!
12th August, 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.