For My Fruit Bowl, I Have Bought:
Spanish apricots are now plentiful, and the array of varieties is quite bewildering to the casual observer. Quality should be excellent, so buying an exact variety at this stage of the season is a refinement or a neat method of comparison for aficionados. In bigger stores, there are often some red apricots to try: interesting, if they are better flavoured than the standard fruit. Remember that the cheaper options in punnets will need a few days in the fruit bowl to ripen.
Blueberry production is shifting north from the Mediterranean with the start of the UK season and supply also coming from Italy as Morocco declines. The bulk of fruit is still from Spain for the time being, but take care when buying, as there will be a danger of soft or mouldy berries where producers are failing to be vigilant. The new season blueberries are cv. Duke from UK and Italy: firm and tangy.
There have been some lovely cherries on sale from Spain, Turkey and Greece over the past few weeks, though there is now a significant shift in production. Particularly look out for the first fresh cherries from British farms (such as cv. Merchant, seen in M&S), the Picota cherry from the Jerte Valley in Spain, and the bi-coloured Rainier, which is becoming more available. Merchant is a lovely early variety and quality of British cherries will only get better as the season unfolds (now a long season due to improved techniques, varieties and growing areas). The Picota cherry is wonderful for anyone on a budget: this famous stalkless cherry is lovely to eat and supermarket price-points make it a perfect affordable snack. Also look out for cheap bulk-buys, mainly of Spanish cherries, though keep a sharp eye on quality as these are not always the best.
Colar figs from Spain are the main option in stores that are selling them: an attractive, slender fig with a soft texture and mild flavour. Waitrose continue to sell the Peruvian Toro Sentado which is darker and slightly sweeter at this time of year.
The appearance of Egyptian Sable, the most common black ‘flavour’ grape, is a sign of the Mediterranean season getting properly underway (seen in Waitrose, so far). These are delicious grapes and add to the range of freshly harvested green varieties that are becoming more available. Somewhat tired Chilean Crimson and Scarlotta red grapes continue as the initial volumes of the sweet Egyptian Starlight appear in stores.
Most of the green Hayward kiwifruit on sale are from New Zealand or Chile, except perhaps for the Organic version which continues from Italy. The sweeter yellow kiwifruit are mostly Sungold from New Zealand, though Waitrose and Sainsbury’s have Jintao from Chile, a slightly more acidic alternative.
Practically all lemons sold in supermarkets are now variety Eureka from South Africa.
Southern hemisphere mandarins are now the only option worth buying as any Mediterranean fruit will be well past its best. With early varieties from South Africa now finished, the emphasis is on Clemenules and its variants such as Oronules. This fruit is easy-peeling, sweet and fresh in flavour: lovely. Also look out for South African Nova (same as Clemenvilla from Spain), which is a really tasty mandarin, but has a tough skin – usually sold as a tangerine, but sometimes packs are mixed on shelves with other varieties (Tesco and Morrisons, in particular).
As Indian Alphonse comes to an end, the sumptuous Kesar continues to be the best tasting mango available (mostly in independent South Asian stores, occasionally in Waitrose). The Pakistani Honey mango (cv. Sindhri) is starting to appear, and although it isn’t quite at the peak of sweetness and flavour just yet, it will become the best option over the next few weeks. That said, though, there have been some very good examples of West African and Caribbean Kent and Keitt on sale as they reach mid to late season. Particularly reliable are the ‘ripe and ready’ packs from the main retailers, or the more premium loose options in M&S and Waitrose. Waitrose are selling Mexico’s favourite mango: Ataulfo, which is well worth trying.
Spanish melons are now well established in stores and quality seems to be good, with tasty levels of sweetness in all varieties. The reliably sweet Ivory Gaya melon (aka Sweet Snowball in Tesco; Matice in Waitrose) is also now on sale in selected stores, though early samples have looked quite small (and expensive).
We are at the end of the Mediterranean orange season with Valencia Lates, and variants such as Midknight and Barberina, accounting for the bulk of sales. These will be quite low in acids by now, so sweetness will be enhanced: they are tasty oranges with great juice content. I noticed that Sainsbury’s are still selling Navel Powell in Taste The Difference brand, which seems very, very late: not sure if they will have much flavour.
PEACH & NECTARINE Update:
Late June-early July is a great time for Spanish peaches and nectarines. The season is long because of the large north to south difference in latitude, but we are now in the peak of season from the south with good quality and decent prices.
Morrison’s still have Angelino plums from the old Chilean season, but there is absolutely no need to buy them as there is a plentiful choice from the fresh new Spanish season. Black Splendor is the current choice for most ripen-at-home punnets, an early variety with beetroot-red flesh, which is juicy and sweet with a distinct acid tang. The choice for premium packs is Suplum41, Metis Oxy Solar and Sweet Moment, depending on the supermarket: all with good eating qualities.
Anyone with raspberry canes in the garden will have a plentiful supply of these tangy, flavour-packed berries as we reach the natural peak to the season. In stores, raspberries are also plentiful, high quality and almost all from British growers. Much of the fruit on sale is of new varieties that are either firm or sweet or large and have lower acids, though the cheaper packs will have the more traditional varieties.
Late June is the ‘natural’ peak of the strawberry season in the south, which is of minimal relevance to shoppers as timing of commercial production is so easily manipulated. However, if you grow strawberries in the garden, they will be coming into production now, and there are plenty in the shops as well: a great time for berries.
©Good Fruit Guide 2020. 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.