Where to find flavour among the spring offering of fruit? It is, as always, really down to the variety of each fruit type. Much of the new season fruit on offer are early varieties which grow and mature quickly, or are the result of the first harvest. Although fresh in flavour, they are often a little bit tart and slightly low in sweetness. However, by careful selection, there are still some wonderful tastes to be experienced among the old and new season fruit.
FOR OUR FRUITBOWL, WE WOULD BUY:
- Mango: any Indian variety
- Avocado: green-skin Fuerte and Pinkerton
- Satsuma: South African Mihowase or Peruvian Okitsu
- Blueberry: Spanish or Moroccan
- Apple: Smitten from New Zealand
- Pear: Forelle and Abaté Fétèl
- Apricots: Spanish
Mangoes: Without any doubt, May is the start of the season of the most tasty mangoes available. These are currently from India and include varieties Alphonso, Badami and Kesar: buy them by the box (around £6) from Asian groceries, or, occasionally, Morrisons and Tesco (Kesar has also been spotted in Waitrose at £2 each).
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).
Brazilian Palmer, a slender-shaped and flavoursome mainstream variety, is the next best option which is on sale in many supermarkets: very slightly fibrous, but tasty.
Amelie from Burkina Faso, a favourite Good Fruit Guide variety, has been disappointing this year, lacking its normal perfumed, silky sweetness, which is a pity (in Lidl and Tesco).
Avocado: The South African, Kenyan and Peruvian avocado seasons have now started, but there are still plenty of Hass avocados from Spain, Israel and Columbia. The new seasons bring the option of green-skin Fuerte and Pinkerton, which are subtly different to Hass, and well worth trying.
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 Waitrose).
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, but most varieties are satisfying at this stage of the season.
Apples: One of the best new season varieties from the southern hemisphere is Smitten from New Zealand: super crisp and sweet (in M&S, Morrisons and Waitrose). While northern hemisphere apples still predominate in stores, except for Royal Gala and Cox, there are signs of change here and there. For example, South African Braeburn has been spotted in Morrisons, a particularly sweet version of the variety: a little under-coloured, but don’t judge an apple by its skin!
Pears: The basic pear choice in all stores is European Conference and South African Packhams Triumph, plus Portuguese Rocha in some shops.
For something a little more interesting, there is a great choice across the retailers: look out for South African Concorde, Comice, and Abaté Fétèl (also from Chile, always sold by Lidl); Forelle pears, crisp and sweet from South Africa or Chile; or Taylors Gold from New Zealand (in M&S).
Apricots: A fruit that can flatter to deceive, apricots are now in all stores from Spain. Good apricots are among the best of fruit, and the early season varieties on sale, Colorado and Sunsweet, are promising. Will they always be sweet and flavoursome? We are in the hands of the retailers to get it right! Do you trust them?
Peaches, Nectarines and Cherries: In May, peaches, nectarines and cherries are early varieties with light flavour and sweetness, and possibly a slight tang. After the absence of any fruit since the end of the South African and Chilean seasons, these are welcome by many, particularly if that slight tanginess is to your taste.
Strawberries: To a large extent strawberry production is manipulated by use of glass or plastic covers to bring forward early harvest. There is some influence of variety, but sweetness and flavour is most likely to be found in the more expensive packs at this stage of the season. These generally contain the newer varieties, which have had some decent taste bred back into them.
Oranges: Although the Mediterranean orange season is running down, there is still plenty of lovely fruit on sale, and at good prices. In particular, Valencia Lates (Maroc Late, Midknight) from Spain, Egypt and Morocco are at their best: flavoursome, cheap and great for juicing.
Grapes: From South America, delicious Sable, Vitoria and Muscat Beauty are still available here and there (M&S, Morrisons and Waitrose), but most grapes, while still decent to eat, are clinging to tired-looking stems: we are awaiting the fresh, new harvest from Egypt!
Mandarins: This is another group of fruit that is biding its time for a fresh season: Nadorcott and Murcott from Morocco and Spain are still very sweet, but have that end-of-season aura of limited depth of flavour that will change dramatically when the South African season starts.
Plums: Similar to mandarins, the choice of plums is limited to end of season varieties, Angelino and Flavorfall, the last from South Afric and Chile. The latter is sweeter, but both are dense and of limited succulence. New Spanish fruit will start soon.
©Good Fruit Guide 2017. 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.