Christmas Fruit – Week 50, December 2016
The choice of fruit for the Christmas table is becoming clear as shops sell the latest seasonal offerings from around the world. There are some wonderful options, both for the painfully stretched budget or to spoil yourself a little. Why not try something a bit different?
FOR MY FRUITBOWL, I WOULD BUY:
- Apples: Rubens, Empire and Egremont Russet;
- Pears: Concorde, Comice, Abaté Fétèl;
- Black Grapes: Sable, Sweet Enchantment and Vitoria from Brazil, Peru or South Africa;
- Mandarins: Clemenvilla tangerines or Fina clementines;
- Oranges: Navels from Spain, particularly Fukumoto and M7;
- Persimmon: Rojo Brilliante or Sharonfruit from Spain and Israel
- Lychee: Variety Mauritius from Madagascar, Mozambique and South Africa
Apples: There is a great range of varieties on sale, but my favourites are: Rubens (Asda, Sainsbury, Tesco), Tentation (M&S), Empire (Sainsbury, Tesco) and Egremont Russet (all stores.
Pears: Concorde, crisp and perfumed (M&S, Sainsbury, Tesco and Waitrose); Comice, the ‘queen of pears’, soft and silky; Rocha, only from Portugal, crisp and sweet, and Abaté Fétèl, the fragrant favourite of Italy (Lidl, often in Asda) provide a great range of lovely pears on sale now – wonderful!
Grapes: The fresh season from South Africa and Namibia is underway and the fruit seems particularly sweet at first tastings. These add to fresh supplies from Peru and Brazil. There are still plenty of season-end examples from US, Spain, Greece, Lebanon, but why bother with the half-decent quality?
Black grapes are my choice: Sable (most stores) and Vitoria (Waitrose) are wonderfully flavoursome, and Sweet Enchantment (M&S, Sainsbury, Waitrose) is an impressive newcomer.
Mandarins: Clementines from Spain and Morocco are mostly the main variety, Clemenules. This is normally an excellent, sweet easy-peeler for Christmas, but quality so far has been mixed. My preference is for Clemenvilla, often sold as a tangerine, or the small clementine, Fina from Morocco (seen in Morrisons): both are delicious.
Satsumas: Owari satsumas are mainly from Turkey and are a lovely choice for Christmas: pick out the bags with larger, more plump and smooth fruit.
Oranges: Beautiful Navel oranges are an essential centre-piece for any Christmas table, and sweet Spanish Navelinas are in all stores. Look out for the extra tasty Fukumoto Navel which has a slightly deeper colour (seen in Sainsbury, Waitrose).
Lychee: These are the perfect fruit for the Christmas table, so flavoursome and exotic. Availability from South Africa, Mozambique and Madagascar will improve over the next couple of weeks.
Persimmons: The main Spanish persimmon, Rojo Brilliante, is delicious, particularly if you find the more highly coloured fruit. However, the flatter Sharonfruit (seen in M&S, Sainsbury, Asda) is also tasty and may soften more, if you like that gelatinous deliciousness which brings out the best in the fruit.
Melons: All Brazilian melons will be fine as ingredients for fruit salads, but I would say that the sweetest available are Ivory Gaya (aka Sweet Snowball in Tesco Extra) and Ice melon (in M&S).
Peaches & Nectarines: All peaches and nectarines are now from South Africa. They are coming down in price and seem to be ripening well and tasting good.
Plums: The South African season has started and a number of varieties are available in most stores. These should be a much better bet than the cheap, stored, late-season Angelino from Italy which is still on most store shelves: very average in sweetness, texture and flavour.
Cherimoya: Cherimoya from Spain, variety Fino de Jete, a very flavoursome fruit, is only available in some Asda stores and independent grocers. Pity.
Mangoes: All mangoes are from Columbia, Peru and Brazil: Palmer, Kent and Keitt, the former normally being the more flavoursome.
Grapefruit: Sunrise and White Marsh from Israel and the sweet, juicy Florida Pink Ruby Red, are the clear choice of best grapefruit (other sources are Spain, Turkey and Cyprus).
©Good Fruit Guide 2016. 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.