Fruit News This October
The best fresh fruit on sale in October.
October: The full opulence of fruit as the product of long summer sunshine comes to the fore in October as harvests are completed and choice of varieties reaches its peak. Apples, pears, persimmons, figs, kiwiberries, satsumas and grapes are all beneficiaries: it’s a privilege to live in a country where such a range of fruit is available. Read on for hints and tips on your favourite fruit for October:
By October, the harvest of new season apples in UK and Europe is well over half-way complete, with only the late season varieties remaining. Evidence is clear in the shops as British Gala, Cox, Worcester, Suffolk Pink, Egremont Russet and many others appear on shelves. In early October, there is still a predominance of apples from South African and New Zealand, but the arrival of the freshly harvested local fruit brings different flavours and textures, and perhaps a sense of greater vitality when comparing like-for-like varieties such as Gala. Later in the month, Braeburn and Jazz will start from European growers, but also look out for tasty newer varieties such as Rubens, Smitten and Kanzi.
It is highly unlikely that there are any decent fresh apricots available in October.
The mainstream Hass avocado continues from Peru. Waitrose and some independent stores may also continue with the green-skinned South African Fuerte.
British blackberries continue in most retailers: primarily the large-berried Driscoll Victoria. It has an impressive berry but lacks the acid tang of older varieties. The first Central American blackberries will start appearing towards the end of the month 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.
There can be some quality issues with blueberries in October because we are at the tail-end of the European season. Ends of seasons are always tricky to navigate as the discipline required for growers to stop at the right time can conflict with the temptation to continue to sell. Essentially, we depend on retailers to do the right thing, but take extra care in using UK or European fruit by checking for softness. Expect to see late varieties such as Liberty and Last Call from British growers.
There are other options for excellent quality blueberries as they become plentiful from South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Namibia and Peru. The fruit are mostly of quite recent improved varieties with good texture and sweetness, such as the ‘Oz’ series, Eureka, Ventura, Rocio, Sekoya Pop and Kestrel, among others.
Some British and Canadian cherries will continue on sale into October, but it is very late and reliant on long storage programmes: succulence is unlikely to be as it was earlier in the season. New season fruit from South Africa should start to trickle in to stores by the end of the month.
The famous Turkish Black Bursa fig is widely available in early October in large volumes and at good prices. Selection quality is key to enjoyment: 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 herefor guidance on how to buy Bursa figs.
October is the swansong for the European season of grapes from Spain, Greece and Italy. The varieties on sale are tending towards those of late season, but, for a while, choice remains excellent, and the quality is good. By the end of the month, the choice of European grapes will diminish and becomes dependent on fruit that has stored well. However, simultaneously, fresh Brazilian grapes will start to arrive and offer some options of newer varieties such as Sweet Globe, Sugar Crisp and Sable. Where possible, try to select from the range of newish varieties with either great flavour, sweetness or texture, as follows:
Red Grapes: Sweet Celebration, Allison, Jack’s Salute and Timco for texture and sweetness; Candy Heart and Muscat Beauty for flavour and sweetness.
Black Grapes: Candy Crunch, Sable and Vitoria for flavour and sweetness; Adora for size, if not taste or texture; Melody and Arra 32 Mystic Dream for texture and sweetness.
Green Grapes: Cotton Candy for flavour and sweetness; Sugar Crisp 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 October, but may gradually be replaced by Israeli and Turkish alternatives. There will be a contrast as the new Mediterranean fruit will have a fair tanginess compared to the end-of-season South African fruit which will have reducing acids.
It would be surprising to find any good fresh greengages in October.
Yellow (Jintao or Sungold) and green (Hayward) kiwifruit continue from New Zealand and Chile in October. It may be that ripening at home is slightly more rapid than a few weeks ago, but quality will continue to be good as this fruit has excellent storage potential.
Kiwiberries continue to be available in early October from UK, France and Portugal. This is a perfect snacking fruit: sweet, soft and juicy, and is excellent for school lunch boxes.
Eureka lemons, smooth-skinned and juicy from South Africa continue in October, along with Seedless Eureka and seedless 2PH (try M&S or Tesco). Spanish Primofiori usually starts during the month: a very good variety, though it takes attention to detail to tell the difference with Eureka. It may be that the South African season will be extended this year as we are no longer in the EU: we shall see!
There are almost never any lychee on sale in supermarkets in October as we await the southern African and Madagascar seasons. However, Spain is gradually increasing production of lychee, which are harvested in late September/early October, so may be seen in some specialist shops (possible variety: Wai Chee).
Late season varieties from South Africa and Peru continue to dominate mandarin supplies. These are lovely varieties: delicious Orri, plus Nadorcott and Tangold, but quality starts to change with break-down of acids which results in a flatter flavour, though they are still sweet and enjoyable.
By mid-October, the early clementines from Spain, such as Clemenrubi and Oronules, begin to appear. These will be entirely different from the summer mandarins with lovely freshness and a tangy sweetness.
The delicious Osteen from Spain and some good Keitt from Israel will still be available in early October, but these soon give way to Keitt from Brazil, Puerto Rica and Dominican Republic. There will certainly be a difference in eating quality with the Spanish and Israeli fruit having greater depth of flavour. Palmer from Brazil is the other option in October: a slender mango with slight fibre, but generally good flavour.
Most supermarkets switch to Brazilian melons in October. The range is the same as from Spain and most people will not notice the difference except perhaps a slight increase in firmness and reduction in sweetness as the new season gets going. Ivory Gaya melon (aka Sweet Snowball, Matice or Sugar Baby) is usually the better bet for sweetness.
Good Navels are still available in October from South Africa but try to buy the ultra-late varieties such as Palmer, Chislett, Cambria or Autumn Gold, as these hold their internal quality for longer. Earlier Navels will become rather flouncy at this time, if that is a good description of their eating quality.
For a general all-rounder, the Valencia Late from South Africa (including variants Delta and Midknight) is also very good, and excellent for juicing.
It is possible that the very first Spanish Navelinas will appear by the end of the month: they will have some early-season tanginess in comparison to the sweetness of the South African fruit.
PEACH & NECTARINE Update:
Peaches and nectarines continue from Spain, but these are late-season varieties and will be noticeably more firm as the month progresses. Look out for the new season fruit from Zimbabwe and South Africa which will have a distinctly fresher, more tangy eating quality.
October is a great month for pears as all the new season varieties make an appearance from UK and Europe: choice is wonderful and so is quality. Good Fruit Guide perennial favourites, Concorde and Abaté Fétèl, will gradually make an appearance, while the tasty Portuguese Rocha is widely available all month. Along with Conference, these can be eaten when crisp or soft and all are worth trying when in peak condition.
Other favourite varieties are Green Williams and, coming a little later, Comice , both being flavoursome pears to eat when soft. Then there is a range of newer varieties to try, often bred for red blush, such as Qtee (aka Celina), Early Desire (aka Gepa) and Sweet Sensation (a blushed Comice); or the russeted Taylor’s Gold, also similar in eating quality to Comice.
One of the more reliably sweet, enjoyable and affordable fruit are persimmons, which will appear in stores from Spain in October. There are two types, the flatter Sharonfruit and the elongated Rojo Brilliante. Both are delicious fruit that can be eaten from any stage from firm to jelly-soft, skin or no skin.
Flavour-packed and vibrant Physalis is grown in Columbia and is available all year (often in Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose).
The British and Spanish plum seasons wind down in October with late season varieties.
The British plums are the elongated, soft ‘European’ types which are mainly represented by Marjorie Seedling as the season closes, but, increasingly, by Haganta, a deliciously sweet and plump late plum (find them in M&S).
The Spanish plums are the rounder ‘Japanese’ types, mainly represented by Angelino in October/early November. This is a rather mundane plum with quite dense flesh, but good for culinary purposes. There are quite a few newer late varieties as improvements on Angelino, such as October Giant and Ruby Crunch, that are worth a try,.
October brings the reintroduction of Chinese pomelos to many supermarkets. These are enjoyable fruit, once you have mastered the art of peeling them, but they are not the best of pomelo varieties. For a tastier option, look for those from Thailand and other more tropical regions (a difficult task in the UK).
Excellent raspberries continue from UK farms during October.
Satsumas from Spain really get going again in October with early variety Iwasaki, shortly followed by the more mainstream Okitsu: tangy, soft, sweet and juicy.
UK-grown strawberries continue through October. Quality should continue to be good, but flavour and sweetness are not quite as they were earlier in the summer.
©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.