Week 10, March 2017
Spring is a time of blossom, and blossoming forth. This is perhaps the single most important event affecting the fruit we eat over the summer, particularly as it happens while the weather can still be inclement. A poor or uneven blossom, or bad weather soon after, can have a major impact on the volume and quality of the resulting fruit crops. That said, to experience the blossoming of fruit trees throughout the northern hemisphere is a delight, and anyone visiting the Mediterranean at the moment cannot fail to swoon over the heady fragrance of almond and citrus trees awakening after the long winter.
FOR MY FRUITBOWL, I WOULD BUY:
- Grapes: Sable, Muscat Beauty and Joybells from South Africa and Chile;
- Blueberries: new season Mayra from Morocco;
- Mandarins: Nadorcott and Orri from Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Israel;
- Oranges: Tarocco blood oranges, particularly Ippolito;
- Figs: Baby Ronde de Bordeaux and Evita from South Africa;
- Plums: South African FlavorKing.
Grapes: Grapes from Chile and South Africa are wonderful and good value, and there is still a great choice of varieties at the moment.
For flavour, look out for: Sable (most stores), Desert (Sainsbury) and Muscat Beauty (M&S, Morrisons).
For texture and sweetness, try the red grapes, Joybells and Sweet Celebration, both deliciously crunchy (if in good condition), or the black grapes Adora Seedless (Waitrose) and Autumn Royal (a strangely dense berry with a thin skin).
Oranges: Sicilian blood oranges, Tarocco and Moro (most stores) and Spanish navels, Lane Late and Navellate are wonderful at the moment. The cheaper Valencia Lates are also appearing from Spain and Egypt: usually juicy and flavoursome, but a little chewy and possibly a little acidic at this stage.
Mandarins: Nadorcott is available in all stores from Spain, Morocco and Portugal: a great mandarin, with depth of flavour. Orri is one of my favourites: a lovely texture, and full of flavour and sweetness. Murcott is available in Asda and Waitrose, normally a very sweet, dense, late season mandarin from Spain.
Berries: The Spanish strawberry season is now well underway, so prices will start to come down. For flavour, look out for some of the new varieties such as Viva, or the Driscoll types, Lusa, Magdelana, Marquis.
Blueberries are still predominantly supplied by sea-freight from Chile, but early Moroccan fruit are available: read the labels and look-out for the deliciously plump Mayra (M&S, Tesco, Waitrose).
Figs: Delicious baby figs, Ronde de Bordeaux from South Africa (Asda, M&S, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s) are worth the extra, as are the standard sized Evita.
Grapefruit: Sweet, juicy Florida Pink Ruby Red is still in good condition, though beware some poor, stored fruit (buy nothing with any brown areas around the stem). The season will not last much longer as the late harvest has been affected by bad weather.
Plums: South African plums are good value and plentiful. The standard variety Laetitia is eating very well, if left to soften properly. For great flavour, look for Flavorking, the bubble-gum plum, on sale in most stores.
Peaches & Nectarines: Varieties of peaches and nectarines from South Africa and Chile are mostly of late-season harvest, so may be quite dense, though should deliver good sweetness and flavour.
Mangoes: Practically all mangoes on sale are from Peru with a choice of one variety, Kent. It is not the most flavoursome, but the fruit should ripen reliably and have very good sweetness. Sainsbury’s are selling Brazilian Palmer in boxes, normally a flavoursome variety: worth a try, but it may have that ‘early season’ blandness.
Pears: Many stores are selling Williams Bon Cretian pears (aka Green Williams) from South Africa, which signals the start of the southern hemisphere topfruit season. These have now been joined by Rosemarie (seen in Lidl, Tesco), a nice looking, blushed, early pear.