Yet again, Christmas is threatened by Covid restrictions, but as things stand, there seems to be a stay of execution. More and more evidence is immerging that the Omicron variant is relatively mild in it’s effects, and the nation awaits, with baited breath, for similar evidence to South Africa of significantly lower hospitalisations. If this transpires, the virus appears to be naturally becoming more transmissible but less harmful, thus safeguarding its own and its hosts future: a potentially wonderful Christmas present.
Thinking of presents, why not adopt an approach common in East Asia? Wonderful fruit are frequently offered as gifts, with an emphasis on taste and perfect appearance. The latter may not be so easy in the UK, but great taste is available without any trouble. 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; fantastic 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.
In My Fruit Bowl, I Would Buy:
- Lychee: Beautiful Mauritius from Southern Africa
- Clementines: Tacle from Italy, Clemenules from Spain
- Grapes: Sable, Sweet Celebration, Sugar Crisp, Sweet Globe
- Persimmons: Spanish Rojo Brilliante
- Blueberries & Raspberries:
- Apples: Rubens, Envy, Kanzi
- Pears: Concorde, Comice
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 newer 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 and Spain will be on sale.
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.
Cherries quality should be reliable from the fresh Chile and Argentina seasons, with some stocks still available from South Africa.
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, withSweet 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.
The Namibian and South African green grapes will be widespread: Early Sweet and Prime, both with a slight acidity to balance the sweetness.
GRAPEFRUIT & POMELO Update:
The best grapefruit are now from Israel, though many stores sell Turkish Star Ruby, slightly more bitter. The sublime Florida Pink is also available in many larger stores.
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. Good stocks should be on shelves as the growing season has been blessed with strong rains: 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. It’s best to buy the ripe n’ ready to eat packs.
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 relatively 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. More supermarkets have improved varieties, such as Driscoll Marquis, which probably has the best chance of flavour and sweetness.
©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.