Vacation Values: Holiday planning, keeping a semblance of healthy eating in the mix, hungry children, hot summer days, a yearning for treats: how can some thoughts about fruit help? Well, there is an abundance of choice, riches beyond measure, to tempt even the most reluctant: greengages, cherries, lychee, berries, Nadorcotts, to name but a few – read on!
FOR MY FRUITBOWL, I WOULD BUY:
- Cherries: Exceptional from UK;
- Greengages: Reine Claude from Portugal & Spain;
- Peaches & Nectarines: Lovely from Spain & Italy;
- Mandarins: South African Nadorcott;
- Berries: Blue, black, straw and rasp: all at their peak;
- Melons: the widest choice of the year;
- Mangoes: Chaunsa from Pakistan; Aya from Israel;
- Lychee: New season from Israel.
Cherries: Fill your boots! There are abundant supplies of the best cherries of the year in all good retailers: the peak of the British season. It’s difficult to go wrong anywhere, but pay a little more for the biggest, plumpest berries and you will be in heaven. What to pay?
- The cheapest, and still good, are the stalkless Spanish Picota cherries: ranging from £3.62/kg equivalent (in Tesco) to £4.45/kg (in Asda).
- Best deals in big packs of British cherries: these come in 400g to 1kg at between £3.95 and £6.43/kg equivalent: cheapest from Aldi, Tesco and Sainsbury’s; very reasonable from M&S and Morrisons at £5.00/kg; and a little more from Waitrose. Lidl is selling loose cherries at £4.99/kg, and Asda doesn’t seem to have a big pack.
- Small packs of 200g are common, but these are much more expensive.
For the best quality, look for plump, shiny berries with uniform colour and clear skin without imperfections. As you would expect, M&S and Waitrose are consistently good with cherries, but excellent quality is available elsewhere: just look before you buy.
Greengages: One of the highlights of the summer is greengages, and their season is now underway from Portugal and Spain. The main variety is Reine Claude, but various other varieties and growing areas (through France and UK) will keep these honey-rich delights on sale for some weeks. Buy more than you think you will need!
Peaches & Nectarines: Whichever you prefer, both peaches and nectarines are at their best from Spain and Italy. We don’t get many from France but expect some to be appearing soon as well. At this time, even the cheaper fruit in punnets should be reliably sweet, while the pre-ripened fruit, specially selected by suppliers, should be excellent.
Flat peaches are attracting some great promotions: Tesco currently is cheapest at 49p/pack, but don’t expect to pay more than 65p for 4-5 fruit. These are ideal for diverting hungry mouths from bags of crisps and sweets.
Mandarins: The new season Nadorcott from South Africa is in M&S and Sainsburys, soon to be everywhere. These are beautiful mandarins with sweetness, juice and depth of flavour. Also watch-out for Orri (now in M&S) to compliment Nova, both excellent varieties. Otherwise, South African Clemenules continue as the main variety in most stores: still good, but cheaper packs can be disappointing.
Minneola Tangelo is starting to appear from Peru in Tesco (in their ‘value’ pack) – the only supermarket to consistently sell the variety. Peru is probably the best source for the variety: exceptionally juicy, with a distinct flavour and tang.
Raspberries: These wonderful fruit continue in great shape from UK growers. I’m happy with pretty much any variety as long as the condition is good, i.e. no loose juice or collapsed berries in the pack, but some have stood-out recently. For example, Asda have been selling Berryworld Red which is sweet, quite firm, slightly tangy, but bursts with juice on biting: very enticing. Another has been Ovation from Aldi, which has been noticeably sweet. For sure, there is no shortage of experience in the complex world of raspberries!
Blackberries: UK-grown Driscoll Victoria, a large-berried sweet variety with lower acids, is now so abundant that Tesco is selling it in 400g packs.
Strawberries: The number of varieties of British strawberries arriving in supermarkets this season has reduced significantly from previous years. Early production was dominated by Malling Centenary, and now varieties such as Sweet Eve, Murano and Driscoll’s Amesti & Katrina are widely used. Of the premium offers, M&S and Waitrose keep the varieties under their hat, but other supermarkets are more open with consumers: Driscoll’s Zara & Jubilee being popular, with a variety called Bravura seen in Aldi. Do they make a difference? Well, yes, these are improved varieties which should offer more to the consumer in sweetness and flavour, though there are always variations due to grower conditions and skills.
Blueberries: Good quality and good value blueberries continue in abundance, mostly from UK, Poland and Romania. There is also fruit from Spain, particularly in ‘value’ packs, which is decent, but probably needs a good check for softness before eating.
Melons: The Spanish season continues with good quality and prices. There is always a melon ‘offer’ in most supermarkets and they are worth buying as you shouldn’t be disappointed. For something a little different you will find some options in M&S, Waitrose and Tesco: try Sweet Tangy Twist/Gwanipa, Sweet Snowball/Matice, or Orange Candy/Sunkiss (which look like Honeydew).
Mangoes: There has been little to excite the mango-lover in supermarkets recently as the wonderful Pakistani varieties have been scarce in their presence, and reliance has been placed on rather inconsistent Keitt/Kent from West Africa and the Caribbean. While a trip to your local South Asian grocery will fix the former (e.g.Chaunsa by the box, £4-5), there is relief on the horizon with the start of the Israeli season. Israel grows some wonderful silky smooth varieties, the first of which, Aya, has been spotted in Tesco: look out for more to come.
Lychee: After a brief absence since the end of the Mexican season, lychee (variety Mauritius) is back in some supermarkets (so far spotted in Tesco & Sainsbury’s): an unbeatable fruit – imagine a bowl of lychee, plump English cherries and greengages?
Plums: This is a good time for plums. Not only is the fruit from Spain a bit more reliable, but there are some lovely varieties from Israel, and the British plum season is underway: marvellous.
British plums are ‘European’-types, being oval in shape, generally purple in colour and with soft, juicy, sweet flesh. Early varieties such as Opal and Katinka are very pleasant, though mild in flavour, but we will soon be treated to copious amounts of the more flavoursome mid-season varieties such as Jubileum and Victoria: I recommend that you look out for them.
Oranges: Spanish Valencia Lates or variants such as Midknight and Delta are still on sale in most stores and are great for juicing and flavour. For a better eating orange, delicious South African Navels are widely available and gradually shifting to Navellate as the main variety.
Apples: The range of available apples is at its lowest of the year as we await the first European harvest in late August. For a point of difference, all retailers offer some alternative to tempt customers, as follows:
- Asda: Empire*, Red Delicious*;
- M&S: Envy, Rockit*;
- Morrisons: Cripps Red*, Smitten;
- Sainsbury’s: English Gala*, English Braeburn*, Kanzi;
- Tesco: Empire*, Kanzi, Magic Star*;
- Waitrose: Envy, Cripps Red, Red Delicious*.
(* = Northern hemisphere, September harvest).
Satsumas: Peruvian Owari is pretty much over, but some Tesco stores are selling a late variety called Belabela, which is very attractive.
Grapefruit: Red Star Ruby from Swaziland and South Africa is beautifully sweet, while White Marsh Seedless and pink Ruby Red (consistently in larger Waitrose stores), is rich and flavoursome. M&S are selling Jackson (aka Sweet Sunrise) which looks like Marsh, but has a lemony-pineapple flavour and lower levels of bitterness.
Avocados: Hass avocados are primarily from Peru, Columbia and South Africa with quality being very good. Waitrose are selling the green-skin Ryan (in loose form) from South Africa which is worth trying for a cleaner, less dense eating experience.
Apricots: Apricots are coming from France as well as Spain and continue to be cheap. As always with apricots, eating quality is variable, but more hit than miss at the moment.
Grapes: As the Spanish and Italian season get into their stride and supply from Egypt continues, we are seeing an expansion in choice and more of the ‘flavour’ varieties available (e.g. Sugra36, Strawberry, Sable).
Green grapes are mostly Sugraone or Superior with some Timpson being introduced: all good, crisp and sweet grapes.
Red grapes are Flame, Ralli, Magenta and Timco which satisfy with texture and sweetness, but rarely impress. There is some Sweet Celebration from Egypt on sale (seen in M&S) which is a cut above the other red varieties, particularly for texture.
Kiwis: Green Hayward kiwis are from New Zealand and Chile, with the former being more consistent in eating quality. Jintao from Chile or Sungold from New Zealand also feature as the sweeter yellow kiwi option (Jintao is often in Asda and Waitrose).
©Good Fruit Guide 2019. 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.