Mid December, 2020:
Stores are gearing up their produce departments in readiness for the huge Christmas sales, which will perhaps have a different pattern this year with the pandemic restrictions.
The focus in December is on great apples and pears, all from UK or Europe; lovely citrus, mainly from Spain; delicious lychee from southern Africa, and fresh, vibrant grapes from Brazil, Peru, and latterly, Namibia and South Africa. Add some tasty soft fruit and berries: blueberries from South Africa, Peru and Chile, raspberries from Morocco, Spain and Portugal; plus persimmons from Spain, and we have some great choices over the next few weeks.
Apple quality is excellent, and all stores have the usual standard range, with a good choice from UK growers. Where you have access to bigger stores, look out for some for the lovely new varieties such as Envy, Rubens, Smitten, Zari, Kanzi and others.
Apricots are all from South Africa and should be at their best, if allowed to ripen.
Fuerte, the green-skin variety, is in Tesco and Waitrose from Spain. Otherwise, Hass is mainly from South America, though some from Israel is on sale. Tesco also have Gem, and M&S have Torres, both large, fleshy avocados.
Large-berried, sweet Driscoll Victoria and Midnight are from various European sources and South Africa. The more traditional types, mainly Tupi, are from Mexico and Guatemala.
Quality should be excellent from South Africa, Peru and Chile. Dazzle, Oz Julieta and Masena seem to be the pick of the varieties.
Cherries quality should be reliable from the relatively fresh Chile and Argentina seasons.
Figs are not easy to find, though should be available in large, mainstream stores: mainly Toro Sentado or Black Mission from Peru or Autumn Honey from Israel.
Avoid any old European grapes and concentrate on Brazilian and Peruvian, which will be much fresher. Sable and Vitoria are the best black grapes from flavour. Of red grapes, Candy Snaps, is lovely for flavour, with Sweet Celebration and Jack’s Salute being the pick of the sweet ‘n crisp choice. The flavoursome green variety, Cotton Candy, from Brazil, is quite easy to find, and Sweet Globe is excellent as a crisp, plump variety.
Later in the month, the Namibian and South African grapes will be arriving on shelves. These will be similar varieties to those from South America, though green grapes will be dominated by Early Sweet and Prime, both with a slight acidity to balance the sweetness. There will also be a predominance of the black variety, Melody, which is particularly good from that part of the world.
GRAPEFRUIT & POMELO Update:
The best grapefruit are now from Israel. There will also be the sublime Florida Pink, arriving in stores, which is well worth trying.
There seem to be abundant supplies of Chinese Pomelo’s in stores. These are good, though not the best for flavour (try the Thai version as a comparison, if you can find one).
All lemons sold in supermarkets are variety Primofiori from Spain.
December is normally the best time of year for lychee which are in peak season from Madagascar, Mozambique and South Africa. The availability this year seems to be a bit slow, but here’s hoping that good stocks will be on shelves for Christmas: such a wonderful, luxurious fruit.
This is the best time of year for traditional clementines with Clemenules from Spain, which will take us through to Christmas and beyond. Also try Clemenvilla, often sold as a tangerine, which is tough to peel, but worth the effort: dense, juicy, sweet and balanced.
Brazilian Ivory Gaya is probably the most interesting melon on sale: find them in Tesco (aka Sweet Snowball) or Asda, possibly in Waitrose. Otherwise, all standard melons are available and should have decent flavour (all are from Brazil).
The early Navel orange from Spain, Navelina, is in all stores and is good to eat as its season diminishes. It will be replaced by the equally good Navelate and Washington Navel over Christmas, both of which are wonderful eating oranges. For juicing, look out for Salustiana (e.g. in Asda).
PEACH & NECTARINE Update:
All peaches and nectarines are from South Africa. Eating quality can be excellent, but is often variable: all dependent on good timing of harvest.
December is generally one of the best months for pears, all from UK and Europe. Comice is a sumptuous example of a soft pear, best peeled and sliced, with sweet, flavoursome, juicy flesh. Other varieties of note include Concorde and Rocha, and of course, the old favourite, Conference. QTee, Migo (Sainsbury’s), Piqa Reo (M&S) and Early Desire (Waitrose) are also worth trying for something different.
One of the cheapest and easiest fruit in peak condition is the Spanish persimmon, Rojo Brilliante, available in all stores: sweet and tasty.
The only plums available in early December are old-season European Angelino, hardly exciting. Very soon, the fresh South African fruit will start to arrive: expect tangy, certainly lively fruit which will be juicy as well as sweet.
Good quality raspberries are on sale in all stores from Morocco, Portugal and Spain.
Satsumas will stay on sale until Christmas, and although the best are over, they are still an enjoyably tangy/sweet fruit (from Spain and Turkey).
This is not the best time for strawberries, which are mainly from Belgium, Egypt, Morocco and Jordan, though Sainsbury’s also have glasshouse-grown Malling Centenary from UK. Tesco are selling Monterey from Jordan in their Finest pack, which must say something(?).
©Good Fruit Guide 2020. 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.