Week 34, 2016
Apples, Pears, Plums and Figs: In common, a significant change in availability. Discovery apples from England, Gala from France and Spain, and Williams pears from Italy signal the start of the European topfruit harvest; the peak of English plums is reached with soft, sumptuous Victoria; while Turkish Bursa figs will flood stores in good volumes and good prices: tasty!
FOR MY FRUITBOWL, I WOULD BUY:
- Figs: Turkish Bursa
- Greengages: Reine Claude from France, Spain & Portugal
- Plums: Victoria, Jubileum from England
- Melons: Charantais from France and Spain
- Mangoes: Shelley from Israel
- Mandarins: Tangold, Orri, Nova and Nadorcott from South Africa & Peru
- Grapes: Superior, Cotton Candy, Sable & Melody
Figs: Turkish Bursa figs represent the biggest volume supply of the year and they are lovely. Choose carefully though: look for uniform dark purple colour, almost black, a tenderness all over that you can gently feel with your fingertips (no hard, shiny areas) and free from soft, discoloured blotches. Prices will come down, but Morrisons (33p) and Lidl (39p) lead the way this week.
Greengages: This is one of my favourite fruit. At its best, when softening and a slightly yellow-green colour, it is honey-sweet and flavoursome: just a delight for its short season. Prices are disappointing at the moment, but hopefully will come down a bit.
Plums: Victoria plums have arrived: delicious! All stores should be selling soft English plums, whether Victoria, Jubileum, Reeves or Opal.
Cherries: English and Scottish cherries are still on shelves, but in the late stages of the season. Tasty fruit can still be found, so get them while you can.
Berries: Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries are still great quality: mostly from UK, though not blueberries, and all at decent values.
Big packs of strawberries are still available in some retailers, such as Asda, Morrisons and Waitrose. The cheapest strawberries are in Asda (400/700g at Â£3.75/kg) and Morrisons (400g, 2 for Â£3 at Â£3.75/kg).
Mangoes: The best varieties of Israeli mangoes are past, but Shelley is in many stores and well worth buying for flavour and smoothness.
Melons: All melon types are abundant in stores, quality should be assured, and there are deals in most retailers. Though, for some extra flavour, try Charantais melons (in M&S, Sainsburyâ€™s and Tesco) â€“ deep orange flesh, sweet and fragrant!
Mandarins: We are blessed with delicious mandarins from South Africa and Peru at the moment. Try any of: Nadorcott, Tangold (very similar to Nadocott, guaranteed seedless), Orri and Nova for satisfaction (Nova being more dense, but equally sweet).
Some interesting new, late season mandarins, some with rather unimaginative names, are appearing and are worth trying: Sweet Spring, Valley Gold, African Sunset.
Tangelo: The Peruvian Minneola Tangelo has a dedicated following for its soft segments and high juice content â€“ only seen in Tesco, but possibly in independent green grocers as well.
Grapes: Greek Thompson grapes, which are usually sweet and satisfying, have joined the main Spanish and Italian varieties on sale.
Grapes with interesting flavour are varieties such as Vitoria (Brazil, in Waitrose), Sable and Cotton Candy (Spain, many stores), Tutti Fruiti Mango (aka K2)(Spain, Asda, Tesco) and Melody (Egypt & Spain, M&S, Morrisons).
The white grape, Superior, is available from Italy in some stores (e.g. Sainsbury’s): this is Sugraone, but with higher quality standards of sweetness and colour, so worth buying if you see them.
Oranges: Sweet South African Navel and Navel Late oranges are the predominant type in most stores, with the lovely late season Cara Cara being spotted in Tesco.
However, Valencia Lates will also be sold from South Africa and these will be slightly more tangy and chewy. Retailers are poor at separating these out from Navels on shelves, so look at the variety name on the label to get the one you want.
Pears: Coming behind the odd early variety such as Morettini and Guyot, the harvest is beginning of the main European pears. Green Williams from Italy are now in many stores, and increasingly, you will see fresh, hard, green Conference replacing last yearâ€™s crop on shelves (new Belgium fruit seen in Asda).
Apples: With pretty much every apple on sale being from the southern hemisphere (last yearâ€™s Dutch Jonagold still in Morrisons), we now have the treat of freshly harvested English Discovery in most stores. These are not to everyoneâ€™s taste, but have a lovely perfumed fragrance when fresh off the tree. Also new (seen in Sainsburyâ€™s and Tesco) is Royal Gala from France and Spain, which have a lighter texture and a discernible â€˜freshly harvestedâ€™ fragrance compared to the southern hemisphere equivalent.
Peaches & Nectarines: Peaches and nectarines are still in full flow from Spain and Italy, and being sold at good values. Sweetness and taste should be assured, but make sure they have softened nicely to get the best taste and juiciness!