Scorching hot weather ushers in real summer! It’ll get cooler and there will be thunderstorms, but it gets us in the mood, despite all the troubles afflicting the country, for being out and about and at one with nature and nature’s produce. New seasons of all fruit are underway, so what better than to sample the tastiest and look forward to them reaching their peak over the next few months?
FOR OUR FRUITBOWL, WE WOULD BUY:
- Berries: blueberry, blackberry, raspberry and strawberry
- Mango: Indian and Thai varieties
- Lychee & Longan: exotic flavour from Mexico and Vietnam
- Stonefruit: Spanish apricots, peaches, nectarines and cherries
- Avocado: green-skin Fuerte
- Satsuma: South African Mihowase or Peruvian Okitsu
- Apple: Smitten from New Zealand
- Pear: Forelle, Taylor’s Gold and Abaté Fétèl
Blueberries: Fresh Moroccan and Spanish blueberries are marvellous fruit, a great snack, and a perfect substitute for sweets. All varieties have something to offer, but there are many new and sweeter varieties such as Driscoll Stella Blue, Driscoll Cielo, Kirra, Mayra, Arana, and Celeste, which are available at most stores (look at the label for the variety name).
Strawberries: Pretty much all strawberries, except the ‘value’ offers from Spain, are now home-grown, so we really benefit from the near-to-market freshness and top quality. Older varieties tend not to have much flavour or sweetness, so it is worth paying a bit more for the newer premium varieties. Look out for Driscoll Lusa, Driscoll Elizabeth, Majestic, Flair and Magnum, among others.
Blackberries: Traditional blackberries have great flavour and a real zing. The British season is just getting going, so most fruit are coming from Spain and Holland (some Tupi and Kiowa still from Central America). New varieties such as Driscoll Victoria have large fruit and are distinctly sweeter, though may have lost some of the lovely flavour.
Raspberries: Similar to blackberries, there are some British raspberries available, but most are from Morocco, Spain and Portugal. Look out for varieties: Berry Gem, Berry Jewel and Driscoll Maravilla.
Mangoes: Don’t miss out on the tastiest mangoes available in the whole year. These are currently from India and include varieties Alphonso, Badami and Kesar: buy them by the box (around £6-7) from Asian groceries, or Morrisons (£5.80) and Tesco (£6.50).
Also look-out for the sublime Nam Dok Mae from Thailand: smooth, sweet and luxurious (try SE Asian stores, Chinatown, or a rather pricey M&S (£3.50 each)).
Lychee: The Mexican lychee season is now underway (spotted in M&S and Sainsbury’s). Prices are high (£2.50/200g or so), but flavour is higher. Let’s hope for better value as the season progresses!
Longan: It’s a bit of a ‘first’, but Vietnamese Longan is on sale in Sainsbury’s. These are deliciously fragrant, sweet fruit, not dissimilar to lychee, and usually the preserve of SE Asian groceries and Chinatown: well worth a try.
Apricots: Spanish apricots are in all stores, and with the season well underway, each retailer seems to have their own idea of the best variety. So, we are in their hands: apricots should be among the very best of fruit to eat!
Peaches, Nectarines and Cherries: Peaches, nectarines and cherries are becoming plentiful and prices are dropping. The varieties are still from the early to mid-season, so are developing good flavour and sweetness, but still have a slight tang.
Avocado: With plenty of good quality Hass on sale, most people will be very satisfied. However, don’t forget the green-skin Fuerte, currently from South Africa and Kenya (seen in Aldi, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose), which is subtly different, often with a lighter texture and cleaner flavour.
Satsumas: The delicious, tangy, sweet, juicy Mihowase satsuma (from South Africa) is in all shops, and you may also find the lovely Peruvian Okitsu satsuma starting to appear (seen in Tesco and Waitrose).
Apples: Smitten remains the best of the new season varieties from the southern hemisphere (in M&S, Morrisons and Waitrose), but Asda has an interesting example of Honeycrunch (or Honeycrisp) from South Africa. This variety originates from USA and is popular over there due to its intense sweetness. So far, we have only seen the variety from France, which never seems to quite hit the heights of eating quality. The South African example is a big improvement, with good sweetness, but also an interesting texture, real flavour and a tang of acid: promising!
Pears: Adding to the good choice of southern hemisphere Comice, Abaté Fétèl and Forelle, is Taylors Gold from New Zealand (seen in M&S, Morrisons and Waitrose).
Mandarins: The South African clementine season has finally started with Clemenules and Clemenluz. These are deliciously fresh and lightly flavoured, and a complete contrast to the heavy sweetness of late Mediterranean mandarins, such as Nadorcott, Murcott, Orri and Hadas.
Grapes: Of grape varieties with real flavour, only Vitoria and Cotton Candy are still available (M&S, Morrisons, Tesco and Waitrose). Otherwise, try the black grape, Fantasy, from India as an unusual option (seen in Aldi and Asda).
Plums: Angelino and Flavorfall, the last of the South African and Chilean seasons, are the only choice in most stores. However, Sainsbury’s have the first plums of the new Spanish season in stock: it will be interesting to see what they are like!
26th May, 2017