The best fresh fruit on sale in April in the UK:
March and April are challenging months for the fruit industry as old seasons close, new seasons start, early varieties have a freshness and tang not to everyone’s taste and retailers struggle with quality of long stored product to stretch seasons. It means grapes can be straggly, mandarins lose their zing, peaches and nectarines become cloying and dense, cherries lack succulence and good mangoes are hard to come by. So, it is all the more important to take care in buying, as there are still some lovely exceptions as we await the abundance of our own spring and of the southern autumn.
Stores are full of good quality European apples, but the choice of varieties diminishes in April as last year’s stocks are depleted. Braeburn, Jazz, Pink Lady, Granny Smith and Golden Delicious are unchanged, but British Cox is almost finished and many of the individual preferences of retailers are in short supply.
Smitten (often in: Morrisons, Tesco, Waitrose); Rocket (M&S); Kanzi (Sainsbury’s, Tesco); Junami (Waitrose); Cameo (Morrisons, Sainsbury); and Spanish Envy (M&S, Waitrose) are among those still available: all are worth trying a for something a little different. Meanwhile, look out for new southern hemisphere arrivals such as Gala (South Africa, Argentina) and Cox (New Zealand).
April is generally one of the gaps in supply of fresh apricots. Those that you do find are late varieties from South Africa which may be good for culinary uses, but will struggle to satisfy the fresh fruit palate.
Predominant supplies of Hass are from Spain and Israel with new east African and South African seasons starting to supply the UK, though there are still stocks from Latin America as well. With the South African season, the green-skinned Fuerte will also be available as an alternative for lighter texture and flavour compared to Hass (often in Waitrose).
Fresh blackberries from Morocco, particularly the big, sweet Driscoll Victoria will become increasingly available in April. The more tangy Tupi, Kiowa and Ark45 from Mexico and Guatemala make up volumes while the southern European season gets established.
Morocco dominates as the supplier of blueberries in April, with Chile diminishing but Spain also increasing.
The fruit from Morocco should be excellent quality, with a range of new varieties with great texture and sweetness. The same applies to Spanish blueberries, though with a slightly different varietal mix. Chilean fruit is likely to struggle for quality and shelf life and should only be used with caution. That said, some less vigilant retailers are perfectly able to provide poor quality from any origin, however early in the season, so always buy and use blueberries with care.
A few years ago, there would never be any southern hemisphere cherries on sale in April. However, with improved harvest, storage and shipping techniques, they are now readily available for much of the month, though at a price. To my mind, though, the jury is still out on eating quality of this late stored fruit which tends to lack the vitality of properly fresh cherries: proceed with this in mind!
Evita and Parisian are excellent from South Africa: make sure they are as dark as possible with uniform colour and without light patches to get the best eating quality. Toro Sentado from Peru, also a good variety, is the choice of some supermarkets (e.g. Asda, Sainsbury’s).
As April and May progress, it feels like grape supply and quality fragments as there are often disappointments on opening the punnets. Either there are multiple bunches, or they are straggly; or the stems are like sticks; or the berries are loose or mouldy, and the textures are soft: one way or another, there is a greater chance of mixed quality which can be tricky for consumers.
You would be right to ask the reason for this confusing situation. Essentially, it is all about seasons, varieties, growing locations and storage, none of which are perfectly aligned in April and May. South Africa is almost at the end of supply; Chile and India are near the end; we are relying on either late varieties or those that can store for many weeks; and there are no new seasons starting just yet. Brazil will supply a limited amount of new season grapes shortly, but otherwise we will await the start of the Mexican and Egyptian season in May before there is much change.
The best approach is to buy with your eyes. There are definitely good quality grapes to be found and some lovely varieties, but be cautious of very dry stems; any sign of mould; berries that look tired or wrinkled or variable in colour; and any dull colouration.
Red grapes: The most common red grape on sale in April and May will be Crimson which stores well and offers a decent sweet and crisp eating experience. Other similar varieties are Ralli, Jack’s Salute and Krissy, and late season Allison and Scarlotta: these mostly have better texture than Crimson, but not the ability to store for so long. One of the best sweet-and-crisp varieties is Sweet Celebration which is often very good from Chile. Also from Chile, look out for ‘flavour’ grapes such as Candy Hearts and Muscat Beauty, and a new variety called Arra Passion Glow.
Black grapes: The flavour-packed Vitoria from Brazil continues alongside delicious Sable from South Africa and Chile. The standard black grapes will be a range of varieties such as Autumn Royal, Midnight Beauty, Joybells, Melody and Sweet Joy, the latter two being the pick of the bunch. Otherwise, look out for Maylen (or Iniagrape-One) from Chile: a soft grape, but very sweet and juicy.
Green grapes: India will provide much of the green grape during the next couple of months which will mostly be Thompson but also Arra 15 (aka Arra Sweeties). These are good grapes: sweet, slightly tangy and juicy, but can be rather unexceptional. A good rule of thumb is to look for bolder berries with a nice yellowish straw colour. The Candy Floss grape, Cotton Candy is good from Chile and the crispy, crunchy sweet new varieties such as Sweet Globe, Sugar Crisp and Autumn Crisp are the best option if you can find them.
GRAPEFRUIT & POMELO Update:
Pink grapefruit from USA (Florida Pink) and Sunrise (aka Star Ruby) from Israel continue to be the best grapefruit available. Many stores are supplied from Spain, Turkey, and Cyprus, which tend to have slightly less density and more acidity.
Chinese Pomelo is less easy to find in supermarkets, but may still be in some independent grocers.
All green Hayward kiwifruit on sale continue from Italy or Greece. The sweeter yellow kiwifruit will start to arrive from southern hemisphere sources. Sungold from New Zealand, a lovely, sweet-tropical option, will become the main variety available. Look out, though, for Skelton from South Africa and Jintao from Chile as good alternatives.
Towards the end of April there is often a significant change in variety of lemon from Spain, our main supplier to the UK. The switch is from Primofiori to Verna, as volumes and quality of the former diminish. Verna is less attractive due to its thicker-skin, lower juice content and more knobbly appearance. However, it seems that that the pandemic has reduced sales of Primofiori in 2021, so the season may well stretch into May.
There are no lychee available in supermarkets at the moment as we await the start of the Mexican season.
Orri, Nadorcott and Tangold from Spain and Morocco (and Israel for Orri) continue through April, but it is getting late for these varieties. These are lovely, deeply flavoured easy-peelers for the late season which will be very satisfying and enjoyable, but as April progresses, the acids in the fruit diminish which reduces the depth of flavour, but emphasises the sweetness. Unusually, Egyptian Nadorcott may also be available (seen in Waitrose).
Also look out for the last varieties of the seasonal calendar which include varieties such as Mor and Murcott: both are lovely, sweet and dense but with slightly tough peel.
Of the sea-freight varieties, Kent from Peru is still the main mango choice and quality should remain good. We will also start to see Brazilian Keitt and Palmer, and perhaps early Caribbean Keitt. Palmer is the best choice due to flavour, while the Keitt may have a ‘early-season’ immaturity as it becomes established.
More interesting is Ataulfo, the favoured mango of Mexico (M&S, Costco, independents). This smooth, fragrant mango is wonderful at its best, though it can suffer somewhat from long-distance transportation.
More exciting is the start of the Indian mango season with Alphonse, Kesar and Badami. These are exceptional mangoes for flavour: among the best in the world. It is possible to buy them on-line (e.g. Red Rickshaw) at a price, though they should be in South Asian groceries shortly.
General quality of melons from Central and South America remains good with some reasonable eating quality across all varieties. Pick of the bunch remains the Ivory Gaya (aka Matice in Waitrose, Sweet Snowball in Tesco) and Piel de Sapo which have greater reliability. As a sign of the coming season changes, Piel de Sapo from Senegal should shortly be on sale in Waitrose.
Navels, mostly Lane-Lates, are still delicious and the best of the commonly available eating oranges (from Spain, Morocco and Egypt). Towards the end of the month, the ultra-late Navels such as Powell and Chislett will appear in main supermarkets: equally delicious.
The best eating orange available continues to be Tarocco blood orange from Sicily (Asda, M&S, Morrisons, Waitrose). Also available as blood oranges are Sanguinelli (Spain) and Sanguinello (Italy), though these are not quite so sublime in their eating quality.
For copious and tasty juicing, look out Salustiana, a ‘blond’ orange from Spain.
The late season variety, Valencia Late, has also arrived on shelves. This is a good, versatile orange, though not as fine as the Navel. There may be a slight acid tang in early fruit (from Spain, Morocco and Egypt). Check labels carefully as some supermarkets use the same packaging for Navels and Valencias, though they are quite different fruit.
PEACH & NECTARINE Update:
Peaches and nectarines from South Africa and Chile are into their late season and have quite a dense texture. There are still some sales of flat peaches in M&S and Waitrose at between £0.67 to £1 per fruit.
Sometime in April, we will see the first northern hemisphere peaches in the form of Florida Prince from Egypt: fresh and succulent, with a tang.
Rocha and Conference are both good pears that can be eaten hard or soft and can reliably be found in most stores. Other European pears include Abaté Fétèl, (Asda, Lidl, Waitrose), Xenia (Waitrose) and Migo (in Sainsburys).
However, the southern hemisphere season has started with Green Williams (Williams’ Bon Chrétien), Red Williams, Packham’s Triumph and Qtee which are on sale in many stores and have a lovely freshness.
There are virtually no persimmons on sale at the moment as we await the South African season.
Not many supermarkets regularly sell this wonderfully flavoursome fruit (except Sainsbury’s). It is mostly from Columbia and has a huge, unique flavour and plenty of acid tanginess.
Delightful FlavorKing may continue on sale in some stores but is at the end of its season. Other mid-to-late season plums from South Africa are very good, somehow more reliable in ripening than earlier varieties. Particularly look out for Laetitia, African Delight and Ruby Star.
Angelino is yet to appears on the shelves and is a sign of a season entering its last stages: a common, firm-fleshed, though rather uninspiring variety. There will be quite a number of other late varieties that have been recently developed to be better than Angelino, but all will have a degree of density of the flesh.
April brings plentiful good quality raspberries from Morocco, Portugal and Spain.
There are no satsumas on the market in early April, but the South African season will start shortly with delicious plump, sweet and tangy fruit.
The English season has started but the main supply is from Spain. The first UK-grown fruit is from glasshouses with the advantage of much shorter delivery times, which therefore allows longer for fruit to mature before harvest. It should be better flavoured than the Spanish, but is significantly more expensive at present. The best varieties include Malling Centenary and Driscoll Lusa.
©Good Fruit Guide 2021. 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.