Week 17-18, April/May 2017
With the imminence of May Bank Holiday in UK, it’s easy to forget that this is Labour Day around the world. When you enjoy some of the delicious fruit recommended this week, it’s also easy to forget that every single piece has been plucked from its mother plant by labourers around the world, from every continent, north and south, east and west, and here at home with the start of the berry season. A sobering thought, but uplifting in the sense that we literally enjoy the fruits of their labour!
FOR OUR MAY DAY FRUITBOWL, WE WOULD BUY:
Blueberries: Shops are brimming with fresh Moroccan and Spanish blueberries, such a wonderful fruit, a great snack, and a perfect substitute for sweets (fruit for kid’s!). All the better for many new and flavoursome varieties such as Kirra, Mayra, Arana, and Celeste, mostly from Morocco.
Strawberries: The UK season is very much underway, but the cold weather must be holding fruit development back, so Spain will be relied upon for much of the supply. Many strawberry varieties usually need a dose of sugar to help them down, but sweetness can be found in newer varieties such as Driscoll Lusa and Viva. The best value Driscoll Lusa spotted so far: Morrisons 2 for £3, 227g pack: £5.50/kg.
Mangoes: May is almost Manna from Heaven for mangoes: supremely flavoursome Indian mangoes, such as Badami, are in Asian grocery stores, and Waitrose has surprised with Indian Kesar for the first time (slightly pricey at £2 each). Amelie from Burkina Faso is also worth seeking-out: initially a little immature, but now sweet, silky and perfumed (in Lidl and Tesco). Also look-out for the sublime Nam Dok Mae from Thailand: smooth, sweet and luxurious (try SE Asian stores, or a rather pricey M&S).
If all else fails, try Brazilian Palmer, a slender-shaped and flavoursome mainstream variety (seen in Asda, Morrisons and Tesco).
Grapes: Delicious Chilean Sable and Muscat Beauty are the clear winners for flavour, and are reasonably easy to find in main supermarkets. Chilean Inia One and Brazilian Vitoria, sold by Waitrose, are also worth a mention and are very well worth trying.
Satsumas: The delicious, tangy, sweet, juicy Mihowase satsuma is now in most shops (from South Africa). Peruvian Okitsu satsuma is a lovely alternative, now starting to appear (seen in Waitrose).
Pears: Choice of pears is back to its best, now that the southern hemisphere season is under full steam. Premium varieties are South African Concorde, Comice and Abaté Fétèl (also from Chile) and most main stores will have one or the other (Lidl always sell Abaté Fétèl as a loose fruit). Forelle pears are also delicious and now easy to find from South Africa or Chile. All these varieties, except Comice, can be eaten when crisp as well as on softening.
Apples: Subtle changes in origin are taking place in the apple world, which often go unnoticed as varieties don’t change much. However, one of the best new varieties, Smitten from New Zealand, has just started (in M&S, Morrisons and Waitrose): well worth trying for wonderful texture and taste.
Fans of Cox’s Orange Pippin will not fail to notice than the UK season is over and supplies are now from New Zealand, the only other place in the world to grow them. If you want a good UK-grown, late-stored variety, try Cameo (aka Caudle. In Waitrose, Tesco and Morrisons): nice flavour.
Avocado: Hass avocados are still mainly from Spain and Israel, but the green-skin Fuerte is available again with the start of the South African season. These are subtly different from the more nutty-flavoured Hass, and can often be found in Waitrose, Sainsbury’s or green grocers.
Persimmon: An under-appreciated fruit, eating persimmon is actually a lovely experience, whether soft or crisp. Most varieties sold in UK can be eaten when hard, like an apple, but a soft, jelly-like persimmon is also delicious. South Africa is a major producer of a variety called Triumph, and the season has now started, so they will soon start to appear in most stores.