Week 36, September 2016
An Indian summer beckons, but autumn is in the air with the first signs of turning leaves. Autumnal signs in the fruit world are all about as well, with apple and pear harvest in full flow, wild raspberries in abundance, and local plum harvests drawing to a close. Itâ€™s a time for flavour and fullness!
FOR MY FRUITBOWL, I WOULD BUY:
- Grapes: Cotton Candy, Sable & Melody from Spain, Vitoria from Brazil
- Apples: Freshly harvested early varieties such as Discovery and Estivale
- Greengages: Bavay from France
- Figs: Turkish Bursa
- Oranges: Navels from South Africa such as Navelate, Cara Cara
Grapes: For grapes with interesting flavour try: Vitoria (Brazil, in Waitrose), Sable and Cotton Candy (Spain, many stores), Tutti Fruiti Mango (aka K2)(Spain, occasionally Asda, M&S, Tesco) and Melody (Spain, M&S, Morrisons).
Greek Thompson is the predominant white grape on shelves and should be reliably sweet.
Apples: More and more new season apples from UK and Europe will become evident in the next few weeks. Seen this week: English Bramleyâ€™s, Discovery, Estivale and Robijn; Royal Gala from Spain, France, Italy and Slovenia; and Granny Smith from France. All will have a fresh taste with some tanginess (less so Royal Gala)after the sweet varieties that dominate the southern hemisphere supplies.
Some early season varieties, such as Discovery, need eating as soon as possible after harvest to experience the true perfumed fragrance: donâ€™t leave them in the fruit bowl!
Greengages: These are coming to an end, but Bavay from France is still delicious, if you can find them.
Figs: Turkish Bursa figs are still lovely, but choose carefully. They are best bought loose to enable selection of the best: look for uniform dark purple colour, a tenderness all over that you can gently feel with your fingertips (no hard, shiny areas), and free from soft, discoloured blotches.
Oranges: Sweet South African Navel, Navelate and Cara Cara oranges are still available. However, Valencia-types (Valencia Late, Midknight and Delta Seedless) from South Africa are being sold alongside and are difficult to distinguish: look at the variety name on the label. These are flavoursome, but will be slightly more tangy and chewy than Navel oranges, so make sure you know what you are buying.
British Plums: Succulent Victoria plums are still available, but giving way to late varieties such as Marjorie Seedling.
Berries: Strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries are still abundant: mostly, except for blueberries, from UK. The cheapest big-pack strawberries are in Asda (700g at Â£3.71/kg).
Pears: Green Williams from Italy are now in all stores, as is fresh, hard, green Conference from Belgium and Holland. Early Rocha from Portugal are also in Asda and Sainsburyâ€™s.
Being sweet-toothed and liking crisp pears, my choice would still be South African Forelle (M&S and Waitrose) or Argentinian Golden Buerre Bosc (Asda).
Cherries: English and Scottish cherries are still on shelves, now joined by Canadian stocks: all have been stored, but should still be tasty.
Mangoes: The best Israeli varieties are all but finished, now reliant on Kent and Keitt. Brazilian mangoes are starting to appear, but I am waiting for one of my favourite varieties, Osteen from Spain: they should be available soon.
Melons: Melons are still primarily from Spain, but the first supplies from Brazil are in Morrisons: Brazilian Galia was pleasant, if not exceptional.
Mandarins: Try any of: Nadorcott, Tangold (very similar to Nadocott, guaranteed seedless), Orri and Mor for satisfaction. These are all good mandarins from Peru and South Africa.
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.
Peaches & Nectarines: Peaches and nectarines are still good from Spain and Italy, and being sold at good values. Regular buyers will notice a gradual change in density as we get into the late season varieties.
Plums: Other than the soft British (European-type) plums, the standard plum offer is also moving into the later-season varieties: once Angelino plums (seen in Tesco from Spain) start being sold, you know that the season is drawing to an end!