The best fresh fruit on sale in September.
September: It’s not surprising that September is a great month for fruit, but it may be a surprise that it is citrus, grapes, plums and figs that stand out as at their best rather newly harvested apples and pears. Time in the season matters with all fruit but the late season is often particularly good as the long summer exposure develops depth and complexity of flavour and enhanced sweetness. Late South African Navels and mandarins, grapes from Spain, Bursa figs from Turkey and home-grown plums such as Haganta are a case in point.
Read on for hints and tips on your favourite fruit for September:
The choice of apples in September changes subtly to include early varieties or those with short storage lives from the new European harvest such as D’Estivale, Worcester, Early Windsor, Laxton’s Superb and Zari. There are many other varieties being harvested, most of which will not appear in a supermarket, but provide rich pickings in green grocers, market stalls and farm shops. Before the end of the month, stores will have plenty of European Gala, Granny Smith and Golden Delicious, and the first arrivals of the new crop of Cox’s Orange Pippin.
Meanwhile, the later season varieties such as Braeburn, Pink Lady and Jazz will continue from the southern hemisphere.
Of cooking apples, Bramley’s, which are sold from storage through out the year, will suddenly become fresh and solid green as the new harvest is utilised.
September is very much the tail-end of the apricot season from UK and Spain, which means quality will be variable.
All supermarkets continue to sell Hass avocados from Peru with additional supply from Columbia and South Africa. Quality remains very good. The green-skinned South African Fuerte is also still available in independent stores and, occasionally, Waitrose.
UK growers have become adept at extending the seasons of berry fruit, and blackberries are no exception. The big, sweet Driscoll Victoria and more tangy traditional varieties, such as Loch Tay and Lochness, will continue.
September is also the month for wild blackberrying, with country lanes and hedgerows providing a bountiful treat of delicious fruit, quite different from the domesticated varieties.
European blueberries are excellent quality and still plentiful in September. There are subtle shifts in varieties and origins as the late season fruit is harvested. For example, South Africa and Peru come back as a source for UK, and late varieties such as Brigitta, Liberty and Last Call become widely sold. UK, Poland, Germany and Holland continue to supply, but fresh, new season blueberries from South Africa and Peru may be more compelling.
There is always a tendency for late season fruit to develop softness, which requires vigilance when buying and using the fruit (I check every berry for softness before eating). The new South African and Peruvian fruit will be much more firm and is often of the best new varieties. This is a time to particularly take care of ‘value’ packs!
British, Canadian and US cherries will continue to be widely available in many stores. However, the season is stretched at this point and much of the fruit has been stored, which can compromise eating quality. Late varieties such as Sweetheart and Sentennial, or particularly good examples of earlier fruit, tend to be used in September: perhaps a time to gravitate toward the premium supermarkets for some certainty of quality.
Spanish and Israeli figs can be found in various retailers, but the focus is on the Turkish season with the famous Black Bursa fig. This is the best time of year for this wonderful fresh fig which should come in large volumes at good prices for the next few weeks: the main chance of the year for everyone to indulge themselves, though quality is key.
So far, I have seen some of these figs looking distinctly under-ripe with areas of light purple, even green colouration: these will be disappointing. The best Bursa are a fully coloured dark purple, almost black, with a velvety soft feel. Obviously, those in punnets cannot be tested for softness, so buy them loose wherever possible, or pick out punnets with the best coloured fruit. M&S are good at Bursa figs and have the best quality. Click here for guidance on how to buy Bursa figs.
September is one of the best months of the year for grapes as the seasons from Spain, Greece and Italy reach their peak. The choice of varieties is excellent and the quality is good, so not much can go wrong. For standard varieties, it is rather tricky to pick and choose red/green/black packs. However, there are a range of newish varieties with either great flavour, sweetness or texture that are worth buying, as follows:
Red Grapes: Sweet Celebration, Magenta, Allison, Jack’s Salute and Timco for texture and sweetness; Candy Snaps, Sweet Nectar, Muscat Beauty, K2/3 Mango and Strawberry for flavour and sweetness. Look for pink rather than red Sweet Celebration, as the texture is not as crisp in the redder berries.
Black Grapes: Candy Dreams, Candy Crunch, Sable and Vitoria for flavour and sweetness; Melody and Arra 32 Mystic Dream for texture and sweetness.
Green Grapes: Cotton Candy for flavour and sweetness; Sugar Crisp, Ivory and Sweet Globe for texture and sweetness.
South African White Marsh Seedless, the main red variety, Star Ruby, and Ruby Red, the main pink variety, continue in September. These are excellent grapefruit from the hot low-lying areas of north-east South Africa and Eswatini, and quality continues to be wonderful.
One of the best fruit of August, by September, Greengages (mostly variety Reine Claude Bavay from UK, Portugal and Spain) are still enjoyable, but not quite as enticing as the main season fruit. Having said that, it is possible to find delicious late varieties grown in the UK at farmers markets and orchards, such as Leith Orchards in North Norfolk.
Green Hayward kiwifruit and the two yellow types continue from New Zealand and Chile, with organic options from Argentina. The yellow Sungold is very attractive from New Zealand, with the slightly more tangy Jintao from Chile as the alternative (often in Waitrose).
Kiwiberries are a perfect snacking fruit and will become widely available during September from UK and France: sweet and juicy, and excellent for lunch boxes as schools go back.
Lemons are mainly the smooth-skinned, juicy South African Eureka, sometimes in seedless form (e.g. in M&S, Tesco). Harvest of Primofiori starts in Spain during the month and may start to appear in stores.
The Mauritius variety of lychee continues from Israel in September and is still a flavoursome and luscious fruit. Avoid punnets with small or mixed sizes as these have less impressive taste.
Mandarins are excellent in September as they are the late season varieties from South Africa and Peru, brimming with a deep flavour and sweetness. Delicious Orri, often sold as a tangerine, and Nadorcott and Tangold dominate sales, with Minneola Tangelo from Peru being an interesting, very juicy and tangy alternative (usually in Tesco). Any Clemenules still on sale will be very late in their season with consequent lack of acids and rather flat sweetness.
The mango-producing countries nearest to UK are Spain and Israel. Their proximity means that ‘tree-ripened’ fruit are easier to get to our shores, with consequent benefits to eating quality. Their season is late August to end of September: even the normally mundane Kent or Keitt are excellent, but there are better varieties available such as Spanish Osteen and Israeli Shelley: both offering more flavour, so well worth buying if you see them.
Prices are also pretty good in September, particularly for loose fruit, though it is often difficult to tell which variety is which due to lazy supermarket retailing. There should be a label on the shelf-edge to display the variety of loose fruit, but these are rarely up-to-date. If in doubt, ask a store staff to look at the end of the box for the variety name, or do it yourself – it should be displayed along with country of origin.
Brazilian Palmer and Keitt will also start to appear in September.
Melons continue from Spain and Italy in September, but the season is dwindling and there will be new season fruit from Brazil appearing by the end of the month. Quality should continue to be good, though the reliably sweet types such as Piel de Sapo and Ivory Gaya melon (aka Sweet Snowball, Matice or Sugar Baby, depending on the retailer) may be a better bet.
September oranges are delicious, being from the later stages of the South African season. Navels are one of the best, finest eating oranges, full of juice and flavour with such variants as Cambria, Autumn Gold, Rustenburg and Palmer. There are also Tarocco, the famous Sicilian blood orange, from South Africa which are delicious, though not so widely sold (try M&S or Morrison’s).
For a general all-rounder, the Valencia Late from South Africa (including variants Delta, Midknight and Bahianinha) is also very good, and excellent for juicing.
PEACH & NECTARINE Update:
September peaches and nectarines are not quite as alluring as the earlier fruit of high summer, but continue to be tasty and juicy. As the month progresses, the late varieties start to appear, which will be noticeable in a slight firmness to the flesh and deepening of the sweetness and flavour. These will be from Spain, Italy or France.
After the minimal display of pears in August, there is a sudden change as the European harvest gets underway in September. Expect to firstly see Green Williams from Italy, QTee from Belgium and Rocha from Portugal, followed by a rush of excellent varieties such as Conference and Abaté Fétèl, and, possibly, Concorde and Comice by the end of the month.
Persimmons from Spain will start to reappear from end of September.
Flavour-packed and vibrant Physalis is grown in Columbia and is available all year (often in Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose).
The British plum season continues into September with the last of the Victoria crop, and late varieties such as Reeves. A particularly satisfying late variety is Haganta, which is worth making an effort to find (often in M&S).
There are many excellent plums varieties from Spain (e.g Laetitia, Larry Ann, FlavorKing, etc) in early September, which will give way to the less interesting Angelino and other late varieties toward the end of the month: these tend to be firm and rather unexciting to eat, though good for cooking.
Excellent raspberries continue from UK farms during September.
Satsumas will start again in late September from Spain with the early variety Iwasaki: deliciously tangy, soft, sweet and juicy.
The skill of local strawberries producers enables supply to seamlessly continues through September. Quality should continue to be excellent, but these are short-life fruit which need eating within a day or two of purchase.
©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.