August Blues: Rain, wind and cold weather: right on cue for the beginning of the English apple season! Never mind, there are plenty of sumptuous fruit available to enhance your mood and divert attention.
FOR MY FRUITBOWL, I WOULD BUY:
- Cherries: Lovely quality from UK;
- Greengages: Reine Claude from France, Portugal & Spain;
- Plums: English plums at their best;
- Mandarins: Tangold and Nadorcott;
- Grapes: Cotton Candy, Sable and K2 Mango;
- Mangoes: Chaunsa from Pakistan; Maya from Israel;
- Lychee: Mauritius from Israel.
Cherries: The British season is moving into its latter stages with fruit from Scotland adding to supplies. Quality is still wonderful and large packs at good prices continue to be available. For 700g to 1kg packs, expect to pay the equivalent of £4.00/kg in most supermarkets (more like £6.50/kg in M&S and Waitrose, albeit for great quality). The most commonly sold varieties are Regina and Sweetheart.
Greengages: These honey-rich delights cannot fail to please. Most greengages in supermarkets are a variety called Reine Claude (from Portugal, Spain & France), but the UK season is also in early stages, so various varieties may appear on shelves. Either way, the season is relatively short, so take advantage while you can.
Plums: While there are many good plums varieties from Spain at the moment (e.g Primetime, Iridis, Metis Oxy Solar, FlavorKing), it is really time to concentrate on British plums. These are oval in shape, generally purple in colour and have delicious soft, juicy, sweet flesh. The season goes by quite quickly and we are already moving into mid-to-late varieties, so look-out for them and enjoy the opportunity. Currently, stores are selling Reeves, Jubileum and Avalon, with the well-known Victoria variety about to start.
Mandarins: Nadorcott and the very similar Tangold (Tango) mandarins are widely available from South Africa and Peru. These are wonderful varieties: sweet, juicy and deep in flavour. Orri will also become more widely available (now in M&S, Tesco): a delicious mandarin from wherever it is grown, as is Nova, usually sold as a tangerine as it’s not so easy-peeling. South African Clemenules should be pretty much finished by now.
Minneola Tangelo from Peru is in Aldi (as a Wonky mandarin) and Tesco (Jaffa and ‘value’): exceptionally juicy, with a distinct flavour and tang.
Grapes: Spanish and Italian grapes are approaching their best, and there is a wide and confusing range of varieties on sale. However, whether green, red or black, the standard options should be sweet and with a decent texture.
As each year goes by, the main Mediterranean season provides more choice and volume of newer distinctive varieties. These are definitely more attractive to eat and will sell like hot cakes. By now, the most well-known are Sable and Cotton Candy which are widely available, but there are others to try when you see them: look out for any variety starting with ‘Candy’, as these all have something interesting about them. Also try K2 Mango (aka Tropical), Strawberry grape and Sweet Sensation.
Mangoes: Most stores are purveying Senegalese Kent or Caribbean Keitt, both of which should be reasonably consistent and sweet. However, the best mangoes available are either from Pakistan or Israel. The wonderful Pakistani Chaunsa continues to be sold in South Asian grocery stores, by the box; and a number of silky-smooth Israeli varieties are becoming available in supermarkets (so far in Morrisons and Tesco, but others will follow): particularly good is Maya, but Kasturi and Noa are good varieties as well (good retailers will mention the variety somewhere).
Lychee: Variety Mauritius (from Israel) is widely available in mainstream supermarkets. There is hardly a fruit to better these for flavour, juice and sweetness – such a pity that they are so pricey (Tesco seems cheapest at £8/kg equivalent): treat yourself!
Apples: The first apples of the new English season always signal the diminishing days of summer. You will now find Discovery in most stores which is the first variety handled by supermarkets, but not necessarily the only early variety available. It’s an apple that needs eating as fresh as possible to enjoy the distinctly fresh flavour, and probably best as a relatively small calibre to avoid soft flesh. Increasingly, there will be a fascinating array of early, obscure and ancient varieties on sale in farmers markets: a unique opportunity that only comes around once a year.
Other signs of the new season are the first Royal Gala from Southern Europe: I’ve spotted new Spanish Gala in Asda. It’s interesting that, at the same time, Sainsbury’s is selling the same variety from harvest last September: there’s modern storage techniques for you!
Pears: The first pears of the new season actually become available at the end of July in southern Europe. We now have a number of choices to expand the range from the rather minimal options of Packham’s Triumph and old season Conference. Asda leads the way in this respect with Ercolini from Spain, a slightly bland, crisp pear, though quite attractive; Carmen from Italy; and very early Rocha (perhaps too early?) from Portugal. Morettini, a small, soft, slightly tangy pear from Portugal has been seen in Aldi and Tesco, while Carmen is also in Morrisons. This week also sees the first of the new season Conference from Belgium and Holland, being sold alongside last season’s fruit: look out for the clean, fresh green skin to tell the difference.
Blackberries & Raspberries: Wonderful quality continues from British growers in all stores.
Peaches & Nectarines: Fruit from France has joined the supplies from Spain and Italy. Quality should be as good as it gets as the mid-season varieties predominate.
Strawberries: Strawberries still dominate fruit displays as retailers devote shelf-space to their sale. This is clearly a good time to think of making strawberry jam as several retailers (Aldi, Morrisons, Tesco, Waitrose) offer 1kg trays at prices between £3 to 4 per kilo.
Blueberries: Poland is the main source of blueberries at the moment, but there are still plentiful supplies from British growers. Quality is very good, but it is worth checking for softness if you have stored the fruit for a few days in the fridge.
Melons: The Spanish season continues with good quality and prices. For something a little different, you will find ‘improved’ varieties in M&S, Morrisons, Waitrose and Tesco such as Sugar Baby, Sweet Tangy Twist/Gwanipa, Sweet Snowball/Matice, or Orange Candy/Sunkiss (which look like Honeydew).
Oranges: The best eating oranges are excellent quality Navellates from South Africa. Spanish Valencia Lates or variants such as Midknight and Delta are still on sale in many stores, but may be losing their acid balance by now.
©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.