Mellow Fruit: Chilly, mellow and damp accurately describes the atmosphere at the moment, though perhaps not in all walks of life. The produce of a long summer accurately describes the most interesting fruit of the moment, though perhaps not from all sources. Here in the northern hemisphere, the bounty is of autumn tree crops: apples, pears, persimmons, mandarins and mangoes, while the southern hemisphere is gradually offering up its early summer berries, particular blueberries, but with grapes to come shortly. There is no shortage of interesting flavours to seek-out from our supermarkets!
FOR MY FRUITBOWL, I WOULD BUY:
- Apples: Rubens, Smitten and many others from UK;
- Pears: Concorde & Abate Fetel;
- Satsumas: Tangy from Spain – Iwasaki & Okitsu;
- Grapes: New Sable from Brazil;
- Figs: Black Bursa from Turkey;
- Mangoes: Spanish Osteen.
Apples: You have to search a bit in supermarkets to get any feel for the new UK apple season, but the signs are there if you look. British Cox and Gala are in almost every store, while Egremont Russet and Robijn (a type of Jonagold) are relatively easy to find. Most stores have some other favoured variety as well: my personal favourite is Rubens (in Tesco), but Smitten (in M&S, Waitrose) and Zari (in Sainsburys) would make it into my fruit bowl any day. These will appeal to those of sweet tooth, but the choice of more traditional varieties with a good tanginess is also quite reasonable, if a bit patchy: look out for varieties such as Early Windsor, Red Windsor, Worcester or Laxton’s Superb.
Of the ’52 week’ varieties on sale, Braeburn, Jazz and Pink Lady are still from the southern hemisphere: all quite late harvested varieties.
Pears: Good Fruit Guide perennial favourites, Concorde and Abaté Fétèl, are gradually making an appearance (one or other has been spotted in Asda, Lidl, Tesco and Waitrose). The first UK Comice is also starting (seen in Lidl, so far) and Portuguese Rocha is in all stores, both also firm favourites.
Satsumas: Spanish satsumas are now well established and easy to find: 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: October to late December is traditionally the most challenging time for grape suppliers as we rely on stored European fruit while we await the South African season. However, in recent years, Brazil and Peru have developed extensive table grape production which is starting to fill the gap from late October onwards. In fact, the first Brazilian fruit has already been spotted in M&S and Tesco: look out for their Sable (which is actually very good) as an alternative to that from Spain.
Continuing from Spain and Italy are the vast majority of grapes, most of which are well established varieties that offer decent sweetness and texture. These should be perfectly satisfying without offering any particular ‘wow’ factor. The pick of the bunch is probably the red grape, Allison, which is sweet with a lovely crisp texture.
Of ‘flavour’ grapes, Cotton Candy availability seems a bit patchy, but my preference is for Muscat Beauty, which has a much more refined and fragrant taste, though with quite soft berries (seen in Aldi, M&S, Sainsburys and Tesco).
Figs: Turkish Black Bursa figs are still in all stores, and are delicious when the maturity is right. Tragically, too many on sale are under-ripe: click here for guidance on how to buy Bursa figs so you can enjoy them at their best. I notice that M&S have started selling Spanish figs (very tasty indeed!) alongside loose Bursa figs: I can’t help wondering if this is something to do with maturity of the fruit from Turkey.
Blueberries: The majority of blueberries are now from Peru and South Africa, but there is still a good supply from UK in some retailers. What is the difference you may ask? Well, blueberries from UK (and Holland) are all late varieties or have been stored, while southern hemisphere blueberries are early varieties. As ever, fruit is variable, but in general the late varieties are softer and have flatter flavour, while the early fruit have a more definite texture and a freshness to the flavour.
Mandarins: The contrast between new season, freshly harvested mandarins and those from the end of the southern hemisphere season is now here for all to try. The first Spanish clementines, variety Clemenrubi, are appearing (seen in Tesco) and are one sale alongside Nadorcott, Tangold (Tango) and Orri mandarins from South Africa and Peru. What a difference! The latter continue to be wonderfully sweet, juicy and deep in flavour, while the former are attractively fresh and flavoursome (the packaging is all the same, so look at the label for the variety name).
Mangoes: The choice of mangoes is mainly Keitt from Israel and Brazil, and Palmer from Brazil: sweet, but unexciting. However, if you are fortunate, you may find examples of Spanish Osteen, a variety with good flavour from the nearest mango-growing region to our shores: it is well worth a try (seen in Waitrose and Morrisons, so far).
Melons: Virtually all melons in supermarkets are now from Brazil, which often means eating quality can be a bit up and down. That said, recent developments in Brazil have resulted in a more reliable eating quality, so buyer confidence should improve with time.
Kiwiberry: The big four retailers continue to stock Kiwiberries. These are delicious fruit, ideal for snacking, and are mostly grown in UK: variety Weiki.
Persimmons: The flat persimmon from Spain, Triumph, seems to be limited in availability, mostly to Sainsburys or independent stores. This is perplexing as it is a very nice fruit and well worth buying. Perhaps most retailers are awaiting the other main variety from Spain: Rojo Brilliante, which should be available shortly.
Oranges: Valencia Lates and variants Midknight andDelta are now the predominant oranges in stores. These are great for juicing and are very tasty, though can be a little chewy. Navels continue from South Africa, but are very much less easy to find.
Avocados: There is pretty much a choice of one avocado at the moment, the popular and well-known Hass. The supply from South Africa seems to have almost finished, with Chile now taking over as the main source. The only alternative variety is the green-skinned Ryan, being sold loose in Waitrose (from South Africa) and a noticeably different experience to Hass.
Blackberries & Raspberries: British growers defy the seasons with continued production of blackberries and raspberries. Quality seems good, but flavour and texture is a bit up and down.
Strawberries: Strawberries are still widely available from UK, though more and more are being supplied from the vast glasshouses in Holland and Belgium. Glasshouse production allows growers to control and regulate conditions, so quality should be good, though the importance of variety to taste is emphasised. Much of the production from Holland and Belgium is of older, high yielding varieties such as Elsanta, which are not renowned for flavour.
Plums: Late season Angelino plums from Spain, Italy and Portugal are now the main choice and are very good value: sweet, but can be quite dense. Other varieties on sale from Spain and Italy include either new late types such as October Giant or those that have been stored to stretch the season. Eating quality of plums at this time of year can be satisfactory, but never seems to excite the taste buds!
Peaches & Nectarines: All peaches and nectarines are late varieties, so don’t expect soft, juicy succulence. Flat peaches are finished.
Apricots: The season is practically finished.
Cherries: The European and North American cherry season is over.
©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.