The best fresh fruit on sale in November.
November: As with all months, there is something new, something old and plenty just getting better in November. Essentially, though, this is a month of consolidation: of the European apple and pear seasons; of Brazilian grapes and melons; of Spanish satsumas and persimmons, and of southern hemisphere blueberries. All are in peak condition and should be very satisfying to consumers. The new arrivals of note are the southern African stone fruit, including lovely cherries; Spanish Clementines, lemons and avocadoes; Israeli avocadoes, grapefruit and figs, and berries from Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Spain and Portugal. Read on for hints and tips on your favourite fruit for November:
Twice a year, there is a full refresh of apples on sale, with the most complete renewal just finalising in November. The new northern hemisphere harvest, having started in August, is concluded for late varieties such as Jazz and Pink Lady, and all the stocks of southern hemisphere apples are generally depleted.
What will consumers notice? For many who only buy the standard range of ’52 week’ varieties, there will be subliminal changes to taste and texture as we navigate the switch from, say South African to British Gala or New Zealand to French Braeburn. Texture can be variable in the period after harvest as growers sell the part of the crop that wasn’t picked at its optimum maturity. Things soon settle down, though, as they start to pack from stronger fruit in cold storage and continue to do so for many months to come.
The taste variations from south to north are much more subjective. The old axiom that the best tasting apple is picked straight from the tree is true for most varieties, but we rarely buy apples in supermarkets that are straight from the tree. The closest we get is Discovery, one of the first varieties picked in August which has a fast decline after picking. Best eaten within three days of harvest, it is on the shelves quickly and you can detect its fragrance which is lost if they are neglected in the fruit bowl. For most other varieties the journey from tree to plate is delayed, either for supermarkets to clear old stocks or to allow some ‘curing’ of the fruit to achieve the best eating quality. For a true ‘freshly harvested’ taste, the best bet is to buy the myriad of varieties often available from farmers markets between August and October, which are generally depleted by November.
For those who are particularly interested in their apples, the main change to note with the new harvest is a wider choice of varieties and a greater variation of origins. The southern hemisphere producers generally export the aforementioned ’52 week’ varieties (Gala, Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Braeburn, Jazz and Pink Lady), a limited volume of new varieties such as Smitten and Envy, plus Cox from New Zealand and the occasional Fuji. By contrast, British and European growers provide a vast range of old, new, quirky and heritage apples that find their way to market. Through restrictions of space and desire for consistency, supermarkets can’t fully take part in this annual jamboree, but they do try to add interest to the range. Thankfully, all the supermarkets take a different approach to these ‘value-added’ varieties, so there is some exploring to be done, particularly in the large stores with plenty of space. Look out for Rubens (often in Tesco), Smitten (Morrisons, M&S, Waitrose), Zari (often in Sainsbury’s), Envy (M&S, Waitrose), Honeycrisp (often in Asda), Suffolk Pink (Waitrose), Norfolk Royal Russet (M&S), Kissabel (a red fleshed variety in M&S), Kanzi (Tesco, Sainsbury’s) plus of course, Cox’s Orange Pippin (all stores), Egremont Russet, Spartan, Early Windsor, Red Windsor and Worcester (all widely sold).
As far as origins are concerned, the most widely grown variety is Gala, which can be on our shelves from any apple growing country in Europe. Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and M&S tend to be loyal to British Gala, but other retailers will use France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria and Poland as regular sources, as well as UK. There are subtle taste variations between these countries, though the influence of the clone is equally influential.
There is no doubt, though, that November is a key month for apples.
The new South African season of apricots starts in November. The first arrivals are early varieties from early growing areas, so will have a fresh tanginess to them. However, these quickly give way to more mainstream varieties with greater depth of flavour, which will continue until the New Year.
Hass avocados are mainly from South America in early November, specifically Chile, Peru, Mexico and Columbia. As the month progresses, avocados from Spain and Israel will start to take over. In the case of Hass, this change may be noticeable to regular consumers as the end of season fruit is compared to that of early harvest of the new seasons, but these differences are minimal. More noticeable is the greater availability of green-skin varieties from the two Mediterranean countries. From Spain, there is a good supply of Fuerte, which is also grown in Israel along with several others including Pinkerton and Ettinger. These varieties are significantly different from Hass, often being lighter in texture and fresher in flavour.
British blackberries continue in many retailers in November with both the large-berried Driscoll Victoria and tangy Lochness. Central American blackberries will also be appearing and will gradually take-over supply. This will lead to a change of variety, mainly to Tupi and ARK45, which both have more acidity than Driscoll Victoria.
Blueberries in November are excellent. Except for every-day quality issues of the supply-chain, this is good, fresh fruit exported from growing areas that are in early to mid-season. As the month progresses, fruit from Zimbabwe, South Africa and Peru will be joined by that from Chile.
By and large, the main retailers concentrate on newer varieties such as the ‘Oz’ series, Eureka, Ventura, Sequoia Pop, Rocio, etc. These are improved in various ways, often in texture or sweetness or flavour, and are wonderful fruit with excellent health benefits.
New season cherries from South Africa are widely available in supermarkets. These are delicious in their freshness and will soon give way to mid-season varieties of deeper flavour, as well as those from Chile and Argentina which will continue until March or April.
Turkish Black Bursa figs are at the tail-end of the season as November starts, so look out for alternatives from Israel, Spain, and Peru.
There is a noticeable shift in the north/south divide in grapes as November unfolds. The Spanish and Italian seasons are finishing with late and long-stored varieties such as Crimson, Allison, Scarlotta and Autumn Crisp. None are at their best in terms of bunch condition, though individual berries will still be pleasant. Better, for now, to focus on grapes from Brazil and the emerging Peruvian season which are fresh, firm and vibrant. Interestingly, various new late varieties are being sold, such as the green Kelly in Tesco Finest colours, which will be fascinating to follow in the future as extensions to the Mediterranean season. There are some lovely varieties available from Peru and Brazil, as follows:
Red Grapes: Sweet Celebration and Krissy for texture and sweetness.
Black Grapes: Sable and Vitoria for flavour and sweetness.
Green Grapes: Cotton Candy for flavour and sweetness; Timpson, Sugar Crisp and Sweet Globe for texture and sweetness.
South African grapefruit can stretch into November sales as the Mediterranean harvest in Israel, Turkey and Spain consolidates. The southern hemisphere fruit may be slightly less tart.
There are no fresh greengages in November.
While the northern hemisphere kiwi harvest is pretty much complete (primarily in Italy and Greece for our market), sales of New Zealand and Chilean kiwis continue as stocks last. The first Italian fruit on sale will normally be organic green kiwis or yellow kiwis such as the early Dori. Green (Hayward) kiwifruit from Italy and Greece will soon take over for the winter and spring months and may be a little sharp at the beginning. This will be in contrast to the sweetness and faster ripening of the end-of-season southern hemisphere fruit.
Kiwiberries are generally finished by November.
Spanish Primofiori lemons are generally the main variety available in November. These are an excellent lemon with good juice content and will be available until late spring. Some Eureka lemons from South Africa may continue while stocks last. Organic lemons are often Primofiori or Feminelli from Italy.
Lychee are not available in supermarkets in November, though some independent stores with a specialisation in Asian produce may have examples from SE Asia.
We await the southern African and Madagascar seasons in December.
The Spanish harvest of mandarins in well underway by early November, particularly of early varieties such as Clemenrubi, Clemenpons and Oronules. Precisely when these are sold is influenced to some extent in supermarkets by stocks of late season varieties from South Africa, Peru and Chile, but soon enough there will be the main Clementine variety, Clemenules on sale everywhere: an excellent and delicious fruit which will take us through to Christmas and beyond.
The southern hemisphere Orri, Nadorcott and Tangold will be sweet, but rather flat in flavour due to the dropping acid balance, though perhaps less so with the Chilean fruit.
With luck, the delicious Osteen from Spain will continue to be sold by some retailers, though perhaps not the supermarkets. The Spanish season does extend into November, but Brazilian and Caribbean mangoes generally dominate supermarket shelves. These are mostly Keitt, Kent and Palmer, which can be tasty if the maturity is right. Some Ataulfo from Brazil is also becoming more available as a speciality variety (e.g. in Waitrose) and is worth trying for its deliciously smooth, sweet flesh.
All melons are from Brazil by November and supplies will remain as such for the next few months. The standard range of Galia, Canteloupe, Honeydew, Piel de Sapo and watermelon will be widely available at decent quality and price. There tends to be a limited supply of newer, sweeter varieties, but Ivory Gaya melon (aka Sweet Snowball, Matice or Sugar Baby) is becoming more widespread and is usually a good bet for reliable sweetness.
Good Navels are normally becoming scarce in November, though some very late varieties may still be available from South Africa or even Australia. On the whole, though, oranges are South African Valencia Late (including variants Delta and Midknight) which continue to be good, and excellent for juicing. A new, very tasty, variant is being sold this year: Gusocora. This is a late-type with similar harvest dates to Delta Seedless, but is better at hanging on the trees when mature, so keeps its quality for longer.
As with mandarins, the Spanish orange harvest is forging ahead, so Navelinas will soon appear in stores and rapidly take over from the South African fruit. Early Navelinas are quite different from the Valencia Lates they replace as they are freshly harvested and have a slight tanginess as well as a flavoursome freshness.
PEACH & NECTARINE Update:
Peaches and nectarines are all from Zimbabwe and South Africa in November. The very early varieties soon finish and are replaced by sweeter mid-season varieties with a greater depth of flavour.
November carries the baton from October for pears as the great choice and quality of varieties continues from the UK and European harvest. Good Fruit Guide perennial favourites, Comice, Concorde and Abaté Fétèl, should be available in bigger stores (although Aldi and Lidl also do a good job), while the tasty Portuguese Rocha and British or Dutch Conference is widely available.
Waitrose and M&S often stock Italian Green Williams which is a lovely, perfumed variety to be eaten when soft. Also on sale in a rather ad hoc manner will be several newer varieties such as Qtee (aka Celina), Early Desire (aka Gepa), Sweet Sensation (a blushed Comice), Taylor’s Gold (similar in eating quality to Comice}, Migo (an improved Conference-type pear in Sainsbury’s), and may be even some South African Packhams’s Triumph which now benefits from improved storage techniques.
The two types of Spanish persimmon, the flatter Sharonfruit (or Sharoni) and the elongated Rojo Brilliante are widely available in November. Both are delicious fruit which can be eaten from any stage from firm to jelly-soft, skin or no skin, as an apple or with a spoon: versatile, tasty and good value!
Flavour-packed and vibrant Physalis is grown in Columbia and is available all year (often in Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose).
The Spanish Angelino plum is dominant in stores in early November, although, increasingly, there are better late varieties such as September Yummy as an alternative. These give way to fresh, slightly tangy early plums from South Africa during the month, though by December the varieties on sale will be the tastier early/mid-season varieties.
Chinese pomelos continue to be available in many supermarkets and independent stores. Master the art of peeling them and you have an enjoyable and flavoursome citrus fruit, somewhat akin to a sweet grapefruit but with firm, juicy segments. For a tastier option, look for pomelo from Thailand and other more tropical SE Asian countries which may be on sale in specialist independent stores.
Raspberries are mainly from Morocco and Portugal by November. Quality should be excellent.
Spanish Owari satsumas are in their peak season in November: deliciously tangy, soft, sweet and juicy.
UK-grown strawberries are supplemented by Dutch fruit in November as we await the Egyptian season. This is not normally a time of great taste in strawberries, but growers are utilising better varieties more and more, so look for the names on the punnet lids: Ania, Malling Centenary and Driscoll varieties have a chance of sweetness. It is a similar story with Egyptian and Jordanian fruit which will start to become available: unexciting standard varieties, but better options here and there.
©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.