With huge parts of the country under the severe restrictions of Tier 3 and 4, the Christmas celebration, is, for many, the only bright prospect in the coming days. Even if you are down to just one household, it is worth a little thought, and in these last few days, at least the food stores are open and it’s the ideal time to buy your fruit.
With the prospect of a treat and something to compete with the boxes of chocolates, there are plenty of options. The easiest of fruit are grapes, which are in excellent condition from Peru, Namibia and South Africa; then there are all the wonderful mandarins and oranges from Spain, Morocco and Italy; persimmons from Spain; lychee from southern Africa, and, of course, wonderful British apples in peak season. Read below for suggestions of the best varieties for the best taste.
Happy Christmas from the Good Fruit Guide: thank you for reading.
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 often 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 and Ark45, are from Mexico and Guatemala.
Quality should be excellent from Peru and Chile.
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 from Peru or Autumn Honey from Israel.
With the Namibian and South African seasons starting, and Brazil and Peru still continuing, there is a great choice of good quality grapes in all stores. Candy Dreams, Sable and Vitoria are the best black grapes from flavour. Of red grapes, Candy Snaps, is lovely for flavour, with Sweet Celebration and Starlight being the pick of the sweet ‘n crisp choice. The flavoursome green variety, Cotton Candy is quite easy to find, and Sweet Globe and Sugar Crisp are excellent as a crisp, plump varieties.
GRAPEFRUIT & POMELO Update:
Chinese Pomelo may be fun to try for the Christmas breakfast: spend some time working out how to peel it!
All lemons sold in supermarkets are variety Primofiori from Spain.
In my view, the perfect Christmas fruit, lychee are normally widely sold in December from Madagascar, Mozambique and South Africa. The availability this year seems to be limited, but I hope that good stocks will be on shelves for the next few days: such a wonderful, luxurious fruit (Variety: Mauritius).
Clemenules, Clemenvilla, and Tacle (Waitrose) are all fantastic varieties in great condition: another perfect, sweet fruit for Christmas to challenge the chocolate box. Tacle is a particular beauty as a hybrid mandarin derived from the blood orange, Tarocco.
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, both of which are wonderful eating oranges. For juicing, look out for Salustiana (e.g. in Asda, Waitrose).
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 (Sweet Sensation is a blushed version). 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.
Fresh South African plums, mostly African Rose, are now available. These will need to be left to soften in the fruit bowl, and will be sweet, tangy and juicy, a world away from old season Angelino from Spain and Italy, which can now be left behind. Expect many good varieties to come over the next month or two.
Good quality raspberries are on sale in all stores from South Africa, Morocco, Portugal and Spain.
Owari satsumas will stay on sale until Christmas, and although the best are over, they are still an enjoyably tangy/sweet fruit. In Waitrose, look out for Imamura satsuma which is new on the shelves and quite distinctive in flavour: very enjoyable, with a good tanginess and high levels of sweetness.
This is not the best time for strawberries, which are mainly from Egypt. Sainsbury’s and Waitrose have Driscoll Marquis from Morocco, which probably has the best chance of flavour and sweetness.
©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.