Scrumptious Discovery: There is a distinct mellowing in the air as we enter late summer, with nothing more evocative of the season than the first English apples in the shops. The soft, perfumed Discovery are all but past, but other early varieties such as Delbard Estivale and Scrumptious are here to tempt us with fragrant flavours and light texture. Add Victoria plums, honeyed greengages and wild blackberries, and we have the makings of a wonderful, bountiful selection of tasty, truly seasonal flavoursome fruit.
FOR OUR FRUITBOWL, WE WOULD BUY:
- Plums & Greengages: Victoria plums; greengages
- Apples: Early English fruit, just picked
- Berries: Blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, strawberry
- Mandarins: Nadorcott and Orri from South Africa & Peru
- Mangoes: Various varieties from Israel
- Grapes: Flavoursome new varieties from Spain and Italy
Plums: Victoria plums, soft, succulent and sweet, are in the shops now at good prices. Though they are early, they will not last long and will shortly be replaced by Majorie’s Seedling, a less alluring variety.
There are many other plums available from Spain and Israel which are at their peak. Cheaper fruit in punnets are sometimes a bit hit-and-miss for flavour, so pay a bit more for tray-packed varieties and enjoyment will be more certain. Remember to let them soften nicely.
Greengages: Lovely sweet, honeyed greengages from UK, Spain and France are available in most stores. The main variety is called Reine Claude, which is sumptuous, though ending soon.
Strawberries, Blackberries and Raspberries: All the main berries are still home-grown, and quality continues to be excellent.
Wild blackberries in the hedgerows are very abundant, but, as with many fruit, are very early this year. In the south they are practically finished, but should still be good in cool coastal areas and more northerly latitudes: such great taste!
Blueberries: Blueberries are now principally from central Europe (Poland, Romania, etc), but the Scottish season is underway as well. All should be fresh, firm and sweet.
Mangoes: The Israeli mango season is in full swing and offers the best tasting mangoes on sale at the moment. Look out for Maya (Sainsbury’s – £0.75, Tesco – £2.00, Morrisons – £1.30), Kasturi and Shelley varieties, with Lilly and Emek also available.
Grapes: Spanish and Italian grapes are having a great season as the heatwave has been perfect for eating quality: there are many mainstream varieties which are crisp and sweet and at good prices (£3-4/kg). However, for grapes with flavour, the ‘speciality’ choice is excellent. For slightly more cash (£5/kg), varieties such as Strawberry, Mango K2, Sable, Cotton Candy and Sweet Mayabelle are very tasty and irresistible (Aldi has a good range and is a tad cheaper).
Apples: Early English apples are appearing in stores and have that lovely, freshly picked aroma. Discovery is coming to the end, but Waitrose have Delbard Estivale, and Scrumptious is stocked by Tesco, both very pleasant fruit. Expect more over the next weeks in all stores.
The first European Gala (French & Spanish) is also starting to appear, alongside the southern hemisphere displays (which are still of good quality). Most stores are still selling 2016 Bramley’s, but the new season fruit is also starting to appear – quite noticeably by it’s deep, fresh green colour.
Pears: Southern European pears are almost in full swing, and the first northern Europe Conference are popping up among last years’ old stocks (obvious by the clean, green appearance). Green Williams from Italy (and UK), and Rocha from Portugal are starting their long season of sales, while early varieties such as Santa Maria and Carmen are making a brief, fragrant appearance in various outlets. Of southern hemisphere stocks, Abaté Fétèl, Comice and Forelle are still the pick of the varieties on sale.
Mandarins: Nadorcott and Tangold mandarins from South Africa and Peru are now the main option and are lovely fruit with great balance of flavour. Orri is a wonderful alternative, often sold as a premium variety.
Oranges: South Africa Navels are at their very best, and some of the late season varieties such as Cara Cara (seen in Tesco), Powell (seen in Sainsbury’s) and Navelate, are deliciously sweet.
Melons: All standard melons are in good shape from Spain and Italy, and are generally very satisfying. Well worth trying are new, sweeter options, such as, Sweet Tangy Twist, Honeymoon, Sweet Snowball and Sweet Sunkiss melons (all in Tesco), and Orange Candy Honeydew (in M&S). Charantais melons are always a favourite, wherever you can find them.
Peaches and Nectarines: Peaches and nectarines, including the flat variants, continue to be plentiful from Spain, France and Italy. The fruit should be sweet, flavoursome, though the more dense, later season varieties will shortly become dominant.
Flat peaches and nectarines are great value, and make perfect snacks.
Cherries: British cherries are pretty much at an end and have been replaced by stocks from Canada and USA – nice fruit, but at a price. There is the Turkish season to come though, with the famed Napoleon variety, hopefully in copious volumes.
Other Fruit of Interest:
- Ryan avocados are a tasty green-skin variety being sold loose in Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose, and an alternative to the standard Hass;
- Longan, with some similarity to lychee, is in Sainsbury’s: tasty from Vietnam;
- Bursa figs from Turkey are just starting: prices will come down for this delicious fruit;
- Kiwiberry from UK has been spotted in Tesco: very flavoursome, and a great snack;
- Mauritius lychee from Israel is a beautiful fruit: a real treat!
25th August, 2017