Choosing Fruit

Fruit provides roughage and citrus fruits are an important source of vitamin C.

Buy fresh, firm fruit and eat within a few days. Store in a cool, dry place. All fruit is seasonal but there are good supplies of imported fruit when nothing home-produced is available. Seasonal gluts can produce bargains.

In the shops, fruit should be marked with its country of origin and class. The most usual are Class 1: first-class fruit, with no defects; and Class 2: good fruit with a few small blemishes. The gradings follow regulations laid down by the EU.

Apples There is a wide variety of apples, both home-produced and imported. For eating apples, try Cox’s Orange Pippin, with a pale green skin flecked with orange-red streaks. It has crisp, juicy flesh and is excellent for storing. Crispin is a recently introduced variety; bright green, large and crisp. Golden Delicious apples have pale green skins, which turn yellow on keeping, and a bland flavour. Russets are crisp and nutty, under their golden-brown, flecked skins.

Worcesters have thick red skins, flecked with green, and their white flesh is sweet and juicy.

Cooking apples are larger than eaters, and they have a sharp, sour flavour. Look for Bramley’s Seedling, with a deep green skin and soft, fine-flavoured flesh. Grenadier is another good cooker, with firm flesh. Other varieties include Early Victory, Lord Derby and Newton Wonder.

To cook apples, wash, peel and chop, then cook over a gentle heat with a little water, and sugar to taste. Add seasoning: one or two cloves, ground cinnamon or lemon peel. To bake apples, wash and core. Fill the cavity with dried fruit, brown sugar or honey and bake in the oven on a tray until s’oft.

Crab apples are tiny, sharp-flavoured fruit which grow wild and are used mainly in preserves.

Apricots Eat fruit raw when just ripe or halve and remove stone, simmer in a little water with sugar, and use as a pie filling or in desserts. Dried apricots must be soaked overnight in water for cooking. Give them, raw, to children as a healthier alternative to teeth-damaging sweets.

Bananas Avoid overripe bananas; slightly underripe fruit can be kept for longer or used for cooking. Use in fruit salads and sweets: slice just before serving and dip in lemon juice to prevent any discolouration.

Bilberries (Whinberries or Whortleberries) Dark blue berries, grown wild or commercially, not unlike black currants in flavour. Cook with sugar and use to make superb pies and cheesecakes.

Blackberries Blackish-purple raspberry-shaped fruit which grow wild or are cultivated. They are used to make jellies and wines in apple pies and as the toppings to cheesecakes.

Blackcurrants These fairly large black berries have a slightly sour flavour and are ideal for making jams and jellies, pie fillings, drinks and sauces for desserts.

Cape gooseberries Used in preserves or for decoration: peel back the dry ‘petals’ and dip into fondant.

Cherries Common types are White and Black Heart cherries. They are excellent eaten raw in fruit salads. Use the sourer Morello cherries for pies, preserves and homemade wines.

Clementine This cross between a tangerine and an orange is popular at Christmas time. It has seeds and a thin, yellowish-orange rind.

Cranberries Small dark red berries with a sour taste. They are normally stewed and made into a jelly or sauce and traditionally served with turkey at Christmas.

Dates Often dried, packed in boxes or pressed into a solid block for culinary purposes. They are delicious in cakes and biscuits.

Figs These are green or purple with a large number of small seeds embedded in red flesh. Also available dried. Serve fresh figs raw or stewed as a dessert; dried, in biscuits and puddings.

Gooseberries Many varieties are available. They can be eaten raw or cooked, in tarts, fools and puddings. Prepare by topping and tailing with a pair of scissors.

Grapefruit A thick-skinned yellow juicy fruit eaten for breakfast or as an appetizer to a meal. Cut in half, loosen flesh with a sharp knife, remove pips, and serve grilled, sprinkled with sugar, or divide into segments and mix with orange segments and mint leaves. Useful for adding to home-made lemonade and marmalade.

Grapes Black and white grapes are eaten raw or used in fruit salads. In many countries they are made into wine or dried to form raisins. If not seedless, cut in half, and take out the pips with a knife. A good idea is to make frosted grapes to serve with coffee after a dinner party. Wash and dry the grapes, hold by the stalk and dip into lightly beaten egg white then dust with caster sugar.

Kiwi fruit (also known as Chinese gooseberries) Rare, egg-shaped fruit with furry brown skin and green seeded flesh. Eat as a dessert fruit or use for preserves.

Kumquat An oval orange fruit shaped like a plum. It comes from Japan among other places and is used mainly for decoration or in marmalade.

Lemons These vary in thickness and size and are used in flavouring sweet dishes and cakes, for marmalade, lemonade and garnishing food and drinks.

Limes This citrus fruit has a green skin and a sour taste. It is used mainly for fruit drinks and marmalade.

Loganberries Dark red in colour and similar in shape to raspberries. They can be eaten raw or poached in a sugar syrup and used in puddings or preserves and wines.

Loquats Scarce, plum-shaped, yellow fruit with creamy, slightly sour flesh.

Lychees Small stone fruit with hard red-brown skin and white flesh. They have a slightly acidic flavour, and are often sold canned.

Mandarin oranges A fruit with thin, bright orange skin. Most popular at Christmas time. The segments are available canned and can be used in a wide selection of pudding recipes.

Mangoes These vary in size and colour (green, yellow or red), have a hard skin, a large centre stone and soft flesh with a spicy taste. Serve as a dessert fruit or make into chutney.

Melons Slice, remove seeds and serve as a starter or for a dessert. Cut into segments, shape into balls, or fill the hollowed-out melon half with fruit salad. The melon is ripe when it is slightly soft to the touch at each end.

Charentais melons are small, round and sweetly scented. They have orange flesh and pale yellow, wrinkled skins. Honeydew melons are oval, with tough yellow skins and pale green flesh. Ogen melons are round, with yellow skins and pale yellow, juicy flesh. Canteloup melons have dark green skin and yellowish flesh. Watermelons are largest of all, with dark green to purple skin and bright red, watery flesh.

Nectarines They resemble peaches but have a smooth skin. Eat them raw or use in recipes which would normally call for peaches.

Oranges Of the many varieties available, the sweet dessert Jaffa, eaten alone or in fruit salads and puddings, and the bitter Seville, used in marmalade, are the best known. Blood oranges have a sweet red juicy flesh and navel oranges are distinguished by a raised growth at one end.

Ortanique This orange-yellow thin-skinned fruit is a cross between. A tangerine and an orange and used for both desserts and marmalade.

Passion fruit Plum-shaped with crinkly hard skin, and seedy flesh which is sweet and juicy. Excellent for combining with other fruit in fruit salads and desserts.

Pawpaws Smaller than a melon but similar in texture, this oval-shaped fruit has a smooth yellowish-orange skin when ripe. Its flesh is pinkish-orange with black seeds down the middle. Serve in the same way as a melon.

Peaches Eaten raw or used in fruit salads, in pies and other sweets. The most common kind is ‘cling-stone’, with a stone which is difficult to separate from the flesh. To remove the skin, plunge into boiling water for a few seconds, cool and peel with a knife. Home-grown peaches are available throughout the summer.

Pears Dessert and cooking pears are available. The most popular types are Conference, William’s and Cornice. When pears are ripe eat them raw or remove core and use in sweets and preserves. An excellent dessert is pears poached in cider, served with cream or chocolate sauce.

Persimmons Similar in shape to large tomatoes with soft flesh and an acidic flavour. Use the pulp for jams and fruit puddings.

Pineapples Large fruit with rough brownish-orange skin, stiff green leaves and juicy yellow flesh. Often bought canned and used for a variety of sweet dishes. Prepare a fresh pineapple as illustrated, or hollow out the flesh and fill with fruit salad for an attractive party sweet.

Plums There is a large range available. Among the most popular dessert and cooking plums are Czar, Greengage, Pershore and Victoria. Eat raw, or use in pies, puddings and preserves. Damsons are small purple plums with a good, sharp flavour: usually served cooked.

Pomegranates Round, with reddish-orange skin and bright red flesh embedded with seeds. Cut in half and eat by sucking the flesh from the seeds.

Quinces A yellowish green fruit with a shape somewhere between an apple and a pear. It has a hard flesh and is difficult to peel. It can’t be eaten raw, but is delicious made into preserves and highlights the flavour of apples. Available late September-October.

Raspberries Red juicy berries often sold with their inner — hulls removed. They are excellent served with cream in meringue nests, pureed and made into fools and ice cream, or used for jams.

Redcurrants Bright red berries, ideal for using in fruit salads and for making jellies. Remove fruit from the stalk by running a fork down the length of it.

Rhubarb It can be available ‘forced’ in winter, when it has pink stalks, or from March to June in its main crop with thicker, greener stalks and a sourer taste. Remove the leaves (which are highly poisonous), wash and drain well before stewing or poaching with sugar for puddings, pies and crumbles.

Satsumas Seedless fruit, similar to tangerines and easy to peel. They are available throughout the winter.

Strawberries The popularity of this fruit is reflected in the increasing demand for ‘pickyour-own’ strawberry fields during the summer months. The flesh is red and juicy and has tiny pips on the surface. Hull and serve with fresh cream, scones or ice cream or make into jam.

Tangerines A small orange-like fruit which is easy to peel. Delicious despite its many pips.

Ugli This is a cross between a grapefruit and a tangerine. It has greenish-yellow skin and sweet flesh.

Whitecurrants These are quite rare, but when you can get hold of them, serve them for dessert with sugar.