Top Topfruit: Apples and pears are the main focus of the fruit world as the European harvest is concluded and the choice and range available to consumers is as wide as it will be all year. Though don’t forget that newly harvested fruit is popping up all over the place to bring fresh, new, tantalising flavours for us to try: think persimmons from Spain, peaches from Zimbabwe and grapes from Peru, to name but a few.
FOR MY FRUITBOWL, I WOULD BUY:
- Apples: Heritage varieties from UK;
- Pears: Concorde & Comice;
- Mandarins: Oronules clementine from Spain;
- Grapes: Sable from Peru & Brazil;
- Blueberries: Fresh season from Peru, Zimbabwe & South Africa;
- Persimmons: Spanish Rojo Brilliante.
Apples: Of the ’52 week’ varieties on sale, Braeburn has been the next variety to switch from southern hemisphere to European sources, now in stores from France and Italy, soon from UK as well. Braeburn is a wonderful variety and these are among its best growing countries.
October continues to be a great month for choice of apples. Now is the time to try the various heritage varieties that appear in greengrocers, farmer’s markets and farm stores, and even the odd supermarket. M&S are offering some delicious Norfolk Royal Russet, and others may do similarly if you keep an eye out.
Pears: Delicious Concorde is getting wider attention, but seems most reliably available in M&S, Tesco and Waitrose, while Abaté Fétèl, is regularly available in Asda and Lidl. Another favourite, Comice, is also gaining more shelf space as we settle into the winter pear range. Across the retailers, there is a good choice at the moment: all have the excellent Portuguese Rocha, but there is also Green Williams, QTee and Early Desire to try, which will attract many pear fans.
Mandarins: The new Spanish clementine season is now evident across all stores. Most are now past the very early variety, Clemenrubi, and are selling Oronules, an excellent early variety: expect more sweetness and flavour to flow. The contrast with southern hemisphere Nadorcott, Murcott and Orri mandarins is stark with the latter losing the acid definition to flavour, but remaining very sweet.
Grapes: Looking for a grape with flavour as well as sweetness? Look no further than the black seedless Sable, now fresh from Brazil and Peru (rather than Spain), which both produce a particularly tasty version of the variety. Sable is widely available, but another black Brazilian grape gaining wider distribution is Vitoria, a fruit of intensity to spice up your pallet (seen in M&S, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose). Also look out for green grapes from Brazil such as Sweet Globe: excellent texture.
Most other grapes continue from Spain and Italy and should be satisfying and decent quality without offering any particular ‘wow’ factor (stalks may start to look a little tired, but berries will be unaffected).
Blueberries: There are still blueberries from UK on sale, which are the very last varieties of the season, and possibly stored for a bit as well. There is nothing wrong with these as long as the suppliers do a good job, but they are prone to softness. Most blueberries are from Zimbabwe, South Africa and Peru, and the quality, given the early stage of the season, is generally excellent. Pay a little more for premium packs and you will get the best of the new varieties in terms of flavour, sweetness and texture.
Persimmons: Rojo Brilliante, the main persimmon from Spain, is now in all stores and selling at very reasonable prices. This is an excellent fruit, particularly if you can find the better coloured examples and are patient enough to let them soften and darken in the fruit bowl. Although they can be eaten when hard, I enjoy them when they are like jelly inside their waxy skin: the best condition for flavour and sweetness.
Satsumas: Satsuma Okitsu from Spain is now well established and easy to find: tangy and full of juice and sweetness.
Figs: Turkish Black Bursa figs are still in most stores, but the season is tailing-off. To get the best eating experience, look for the dark coloured fruit: click here for guidance on how to buy them. Other figs are starting to appear as a replacement for Bursa, such as Autumn Honey from Israel and Toro Sentado from Peru, both very good when mature.
Mangoes: Keitt is the main mango available at the moment, arriving from Israel, Brazil and Dominican Republic. I am not often particularly complimentary about Keitt because it tends to lack flavour due to sea-freighting. However, I’ve recently had some good examples from Israel in particular, especially in successful ripening and fleshy sweetness. There ought to be more Spanish mangoes on sale, but I guess volumes are limited compared to Brazil and other countries. However, Spanish Osteen is still available on an ad hoc basis, recently seen in M&S and worth trying. The other main mango on sale is the slender Palmer from Brazil: this has some flavour, and is a good, sweet, fleshy mango with slight fibre in the flesh.
I was really surprised to stumble across a box of Mexican Ataulfo in Lidl the other day: what a find! This is one of the favourite mangoes of Mexico and is well-known in North America, but rarely seen here in the UK, especially not in supermarkets. If you see it, buy it – a slender, pale yellow mango with smooth skin (£1.19/fruit).
Melons: With all melons now coming from Brazil, the choice of newer varieties and types has diminished compared to supply from Spain. However, Waitrose and Tesco are selling the Matise variety (aka Sweet Snowball), which is worth trying. It is a very pleasant melon, not hugely flavoursome, but the succulent, white flesh is reliably sweet.
Peaches & Nectarines: The South African and Zimbabwe season of peaches and nectarines have started, and you will find them in the bigger retail stores, quite pricey at first. You can also still buy late season peaches and nectarines from Spain, which are entirely different, but much cheaper. The difference is between light, soft, slightly tangy early varieties vs. firm, dense late varieties.
Cherries: I have spotted the first new season South African cherries in Morrisons and Waitrose. These are expensive but are tasty and satisfying if you can’t do without cherries in your life!
Oranges: Valencia Lates and variants Midknight and Delta are now the predominant oranges in stores. These are great for juicing and are very tasty, though can be a little chewy. Navels are hard to find, but Sainsbury’s and M&S have the very late Cambria Navel which is still a superior eating experience. All oranges are from South Africa, but the Spanish season will be starting shortly.
Avocados: The popular and well-known Hass avocado is now mainly from Chile, with excellent quality. Waitrose continue to sell the green-skinned Ryan as a loose fruit, which is a distinctly different eating experience: lighter of flavour and texture (from South Africa). If you are looking for big avocados, try the South African ‘Gem’ in some Tesco stores, or the Argentinean ‘Giant’ in selected M&S stores: pricey, but meaty!
Blackberries: 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 are appearing 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.
Raspberries: There has been a definite shift in the origin of raspberries over the last week or two as the British season declines. We now have a plethora of varieties from Spain, Portugal and Morocco, so be aware that the fruit is now travelling a longer distance to market: don’t leave them in the fridge for more than a day or two.
Strawberries: Strawberries are still widely available from UK and Holland, all from glasshouse production. My search for sweetness and flavour in strawberries continues to be challenging, but the best chance remains with varieties such as Driscoll’s Elizabeth, Katrina and Amesti, and Malling Centenary. Much of the production from Holland 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 the main choice and are good value: sweet, but dense. There is a range of newer varieties on sale from Spain and Italy which offer slightly better sweetness or juiciness, but can’t get round the slightly crunchy texture of late season. The best one to try is the pink-skinned African Delight which is very sweet and retains some succulence.
©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.