Flavoursome Fruit This Week – wk 39’19, September

Meditative Fruit:  Our mood is influenced by so many things, mostly our personal circumstance, but the times we live in seem to emphasise how much our environment affects us, and not just our natural environment. Autumn always brings a sense of ending, of closure, of the need to preparing for adverse conditions. However, the state of our nation, with its adversarial politics, is adding a sense of disquiet which is not easy to dissipate. If we are not careful, along with dire warnings about almost everything, it leaves many of us with an underlying depressive feeling. Actually, for most, there is more in life to be celebrated than not and we need to be reminded of that fact at the moment. My way is to enjoy the wonderful fruits of the earth that are so readily available to us. It’s not common to do so, but there is something meditative in selecting, anticipating and savouring the best fruit available at any one moment in time. When you find a piece of fruit full of flavour and sweetness and vibrancy, take a moment to enjoy it and remember that we all come from the same source of beautiful energy.

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  • Apples: British varieties, freshly harvested;
  • Pears: Concorde & Abate Fetel;
  • Plums: Haganta from UK;
  • Satsumas: Fresh from Spain – Iwasaki & Okitsu;
  • Grapes: Late, crisp green varieties – Sugar Crisp & Autumn Crisp;
  • Figs: Black Bursa from Turkey;
  • Blueberries: Late varieties from UK, early varieties from South Africa.

Apples: With the harvest in full flow, there are now many lovely, fresh British apples on sale in supermarkets. Cox and Gala are most easily available, but most stores will have some other choice whether traditional varieties such as Egremont Russet, Early Windsor, Worcester or Laxton’s Superb; or newer varieties such as Robijn, Wellant, D’Estivale or Suffolk Pink.

Of the ’52 week’ varieties, most are still from the southern hemisphere, though the European switch is complete for Gala, and underway for Golden Delicious and Granny Smith.  Fresh Granny Smith from Spain may be noticeably tart compared to the South African version.

Pears:  Focus should be on the new European pear season.  Conference, Green Williams’, Rocha and QTee, are now established and in all stores, but look out for the wonderful Concorde, seen in Morrisons, Tesco and Waitrose: delicious. Abaté Fétèl from Italy is also starting: a lovely pear that can be eaten crisp or soft (seen so far in Asda).

Plums:  All supermarkets are selling Angelino plums from Spain, Italy and Portugal: sweet but dense and a sign of the end of the season.  There are other varieties on sale from Spain and Italy, but few will be particularly special to eat. ‘European’ plums from UK are virtually finished, but M&S have a late variety called Haganta: really worth trying for intense sweetness and flavour.

Satsumas:  The first Spanish satsumas are emerging in stores and will be widespread very soon (seen in Morrisons, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, so far). The varieties are Iwasaki and Okitsu, both early types, but full of juice, sweetness and the tangy metallic taste that makes these fruit so unique.

Grapes:  Look around at some of the names of the varieties on sale, such as Autumn Royal and Autumn Crisp, and it is obvious at what stage the European season has reached. There is still a bewildering array of varieties available, but many of the standard varieties on sale are of later season.  The newer varieties of late green grapes in particular are attractive because of their sweetness, berry size and very crisp texture: at present, along with Autumn Crisp, there is also Sugar Crisp to try if you see it.

The current options for red and black grapes are decent, sweet and crisp, but relatively unexciting. The predominant red grape is Allison.

Grapes with flavour are still available, but in a more ad hoc manner than previously. Most supermarkets have a range of these grapes which will include Sable, Muscat Beauty, Cotton Candy, Candy Drops and Candy Dreams and are all well worth trying.

Figs:  Turkish Black Bursa figs are in all stores, and are delicious – if the maturity is right. Too many of these figs look distinctly under-ripe with areas of light purple, even green colouration, which will not ripen and will be very disappointing to eat. The best Bursa are a fully coloured dark purple, almost black, with a velvety soft touch. Click here for guidance on how to buy Bursa figs.

Blueberries:  The choice of blueberries is a story of two halves, with late varieties such as Aurora, Liberty and Last Call from Scotland, and early varieties from South Africa. Both are good, but some from South Africa are new and improved varieties with higher levels of sweetness: look out for Dazzle and Oz varieties. Late or late stored varieties have a tendency to softness, so it is worth checking before eating, particularly it they have been in the fridge for a few days.

Melons:  The Spanish and Italian seasons are more or less over: just a few watermelons and Piel de Sapo are still on sale. Virtually all melons in supermarkets are now from Brazil, which often means eating quality can be a bit up and down. That said, though, I have just had an excellent Honeydew. I also notice that Tesco and Waitrose have arranged a seamless switch of Sweet Snowball/Mattice from Spain to Brazil: worth checking for sweetness.

Kiwiberry:  About the size of a grape, the kiwiberry is becoming increasingly popular at this time of year. With a smooth, edible skin, it is the ideal sweet and healthy snack. Find them in most mainstream supermarkets (grown in UK, variety Geneva or Weiki, or Portugal, variety Nergi).

Persimmons: Sainsbury’s seem to be the only supermarket selling the new season Triumph from Spain.  It can look a bit green, though should ripen in the fruit bowl, and is a wonderful fruit when fully coloured and soft.  It won’t be long before all supermarkets are selling Spanish persimmons.

Mandarins:  Nadorcott, Tangold (Tango) and Orri mandarins from South Africa and Peru continue to be wonderfully sweet, juicy and deep in flavour.  

Cherries:  M&S is the only place to reliably find cherries as the season ends. They stock two late varieties grown in Scotland: Sweetheart and Sentennial. The latter has been bred from Sweetheart for lateness and is a lovely looking cherry. The colour, size, sweetness and plumpness are all there, but, for the price, flavour is perhaps not as good as you would expect, and they are quite firm.

Mangoes:  Choice of mangoes is limited to Kent and Keitt from Israel, and Palmer and Keitt from Brazil. The Israeli fruit should, in theory, be better as they don’t travel as far and can therefore be harvested later. Kent and Keitt are never particularly flavoursome but should be sweet. Look out for Spanish Osteen, which should be coming into stores soon.

Blackberries & Raspberries:  Wonderful quality continues from British growers in all stores.  Strangely, my favourite raspberry this year has been found in Asda: Berryworld Red.

Strawberries:  Strawberries are still widely available at good prices from UK growers.  Quality is good and the fruit is usually sweet, perhaps now all from protected cropping with controlled conditions.

Peaches & Nectarines:  All peaches and nectarines, whether round or flat, are late varieties, so don’t expect soft, juicy succulence.

Oranges:  Navels continue from South Africa, including late varieties such as Cambria (seen in Sainsbury’s).  These are the best eating oranges on sale, though you might find South African Tarocco (blood orange) in Sainsbury’s or M&S. Valencia Lates and variants Midknight and Delta are now the predominant orange in many stores: great for juicing and very tasty, though a little chewy.

Apricots: Unusually, apricots are still on sale from Spain and UK, though I’ve struggled to find anything particularly exciting: you have to be a real fan.

Greengages:  These are hard to find as the season is over, though the late, dense Reine Claude Bavay from Portugal is in some Tesco stores: not at its best.

©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.