- Cherries: from UK
- Apricots: from Spain
- Raspberries: from UK
- Melons: from Spain
- Oranges: Navels from South Africa
- Grapes: Sweet Celebration from Egypt, Candy Snaps from Spain
- Persimmon: Triumph from South Africa
Apple quality is very good with the peak of the southern hemisphere season, but the range is lacking in real interest as the varieties are principally those on the shelves all year round. One point of interest is the arrival of Envy from New Zealand: a delicious Gala x Braeburn cross with crisp, sweet flesh, unfortunately, seemingly restricted to M&S and Waitrose at present.
Apricots continue to be good quality, even the ripen-at-home punnet options. They are well-priced, widely available and seem to be delivering better eating quality that previous years.
Virtually all blackberries on sale are now UK-grown. The large-berried, sweet Driscoll Victoria is now easy to find, but if you prefer a traditional tanginess to blackberries try some of the cheaper options such as: Lochness and Loch Tay.
Greater volumes of blueberries are arriving from Romania and Ukraine, as well as UK and Holland. Fruit from Spain and Portugal is also on sale but can be more prone to quality issues such as softness, wrinkling and odd mould spots: better to buy the earlier season fruit of more northerly climes.
Cherries are fantastic at the moment as the UK season really gets into its stride. Huge, luscious, sweet examples are available from most good retailers and are truly irresistible. Values are good too: fancy a 1kg pack of the very best for £5? Go to M&S who do cherries better than anyone and at surprisingly good prices. Smaller packs in supermarkets are in the £6-10/kg equivalent bracket. Varieties: Kordia, Katrina, Skeena among others.
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 is selling Brown Turkey from Israel, which is also a very pleasant variety.
While Egypt still dominates supply of grapes, there are increasing volumes from Morocco, Spain and Italy. More interesting though, is the improvement in choice as we really get into the Mediterranean season. Having relied on Sable for the past weeks (and Brazilian Vitoria), more ‘flavour’ grapes are arriving, firstly in M&S, but soon in other mainstream retailers: look out for Candy Snaps, Cotton Candy and ‘Strawberry’. Other interesting varieties are also emerging such as the delicious red grape, Sweet Celebration and black Melody, both up and coming from Egypt and really lovely: look out for them. Otherwise, decent (red) Flame, Ralli, (black) Midnight Beauty and (green) Early Sweet will not be disappointing.
All grapefruit are now from South Africa and in some larger Waitrose and Sainsburys stores the full White-Pink-Red range is available. Quality is at its best: juice, tang, sweetness and bags of flavour.
Most of the green Hayward kiwifruit on sale are from New Zealand or Chile, except perhaps for the Organic version which may be 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.
All lemons sold in supermarkets are now variety Eureka from South Africa, except for some organic lemons which continue as the pithy Verna from Spain.
A delicious addition to the range of mandarins is Orri, one of the best varieties for flavour. These are just starting from South Africa (seen in M&S, soon to be in other retailers).
Delicious Pakistani mangoes, mainly variety Chaunsa, are still available in discerning South Asian grocery stores, but are relatively hard to find outside big population centres. They are well worth buying if you see them: by the box at about £6 for 4 fruit. Otherwise, Caribbean / West African Keitt and Kent continue as the main, rather hit-and-miss, option. Some Keitt, particularly from Puerto Rica and Dominican Republic, has actually been very enjoyable recently: buy the smooth-skinned fruit with a break of lightness and colour in the peel.
As the summer unfolds, Spain and Italy provide a widening choice of melons beyond the standard range. Look out for Charantais in M&S; Ivory Gaya (aka Sweet Snowball in Tesco, Matice in Waitrose, Pintura in M&S); Gwanipa (aka Sweet Tangy Twist in Tesco); Limelon in M&S; and various improved Honeydew types such as Sunkiss (Tesco) and Orange Candy (M&S/Waitrose). Many of these are newish varieties with improved eating quality, although you could argue the opposite for most Charantais sold in supermarkets. Otherwise, the standard melons are in peak condition and should have good eating quality at decent prices.
The early period of Navel oranges from South Africa has passed and, with the arrival of later varieties such as Navelate and Palmer Navel, the eating quality will be improving all the time. Most Spanish and Egyptian Valencia-type oranges have vanished from supermarkets, but may still be on sale in independent stores: sweet and juicy, but lacking depth of flavour by now.
PEACH & NECTARINE Update:
All peaches and nectarines are still from Spain, whether yellow or white-fleshed or flat. The eating quality at the moment is quite consistent, bordering on excellent at times. Cheaper punneted options have been enjoyable, but for a greater chance of flavour and sweetness, buy the larger fruit, particularly the ripe-and-ready-to-eat options.
Supermarkets seem generally to have quite a restricted range of pears on sale. It is easy to find Dutch and Belgian Conference and South African Packham’s Triumph, but others are a bit sparse. For varieties offering a little extra, try M&S, Waitrose and Morrisons for sweet, crisp Forelle (without colour in Morrisons); M&S, occasionally Waitrose, has Taylor’s Gold and you may see D’Anjou and Green Williams here and there. My choice: crisp Forelle and flavoursome Packham’s Triumph.
The flat persimmon, Triumph, is on sale in most stores from South Africa. This often looks rather unattractive, but, once inside, it is a lovely, sweet fruit which can be eaten in a crisp state or allowed to soften (the softer it becomes, the more flavour it offers – don’t be put off by discolouring of the soft flesh).
If you are looking at plums in most supermarkets you can’t help but notice that the British plum season has started. The main variety on sale in the early Opal, which offers a very pleasant, mild eating experience, while M&S may still have some Juno, an improved early variety. Meanwhile, the Spanish season of Japanese-type plums is in full swing, and there are good and well-priced options to be found. For example, Crimson Globe, Black Splendor and Owen-T can all be tasty when properly mature.
Raspberries on sale are all from UK growers and continue to be wonderful quality at reasonable prices. Pretty much all the choice is of improved varieties that are either firm or sweet or both, which satisfies most people. It is only an issue if you like your raspberries to have that wonderful combination of sweetness, flavour and tanginess of old. Usually these are in the ‘value’ packs but it is becoming increasingly difficult to find the more traditional varieties: pity. (It’s the same story for blackberries).
Satsumas are still on sale, mostly from Peru, variety Owari. The quality is still very good, but sales will be diminishing by now.
As with other berry fruit, all strawberries are now from UK farms and are plentiful in the shops. The wet weather can’t have been easy for growers, and my personal observation is that sweetness levels have dropped in comparison to earlier in April/May. Prices are good though, with all mainstream supermarkets selling large packs at between £3.50-£4.50/kg equivalent – a good time to make jam!
©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.