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fruit treesTop fruit, the term used by fruit growers for all tree fruits, includes apples and pears, and also stone fruits such as cherries, nectarines, plums, peaches and nuts.

Buy only enough to last a few days, as fruit does not keep for long at room temperature.

Apples and pears will store for a couple of weeks if they can be kept in a cool airy cellar, or larder, but all stone fruit, with the exception of plums and nuts, are best eaten on the day of purchase.

Many of the fruits described below are imported, but home-grown produce is generally of finer flavour and is also less expensive when in season.


These are probably the most popular fruit. Apples are divided into dessert (eating) and cooking apples. While cooking apples can only be used for culinary purpose, many dessert apples, especially if firm, are also excellent for cooking. Look for apples with smooth skins and avoid any with brownish bruises.

Dessert apples are available all year round, as many varieties are imported.

applesEnglish dessert apples include;

  • Worcester Pearmain, thick skin of pale green-yellow, heavily surffused with crimson, and tough, white, sweet flesh (September to November)
  • Laxton's Superb, yellow-green to pale lemon skin, marked with dull red, and with firm juicy flesh (November to April)
  • Egremont Russet, reddish-brown skin and crisp firm flesh (October to December)
  • Cox's Orange Pippin, the favourite English dessert apple, with yellow-green to golden-yellow skin, flushed and streaked with orange or red, and firm, crisp, juicy and aromatic flesh (September to May)

Other varieties include;

  • George Cave (mid-July to end August)
  • James Grieve (August and September)
  • Scarlet Pimpernel (July)
  • Miller's Seedling (mid-August to end September)
  • Laxton's Fortune (end September to end October)
  • Ellison's orange (October to April)
  • Lord Lambourne (October)
  • Tydeman's Early (September and October)
  • Discovery (August)
  • Crispin (December to April)
  • Spartan (November to January)

Imported Apples

These come from the Continent, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United States and South America, and include;CrabApples

  • Golden Delicious, smooth green skin which turns yellow during storage (September to April)
  • Granny Smith, bright green skin, hard and crunchy flesh with sharp flavour (March to August)

Other varieties include: Dunn's Seedling, Red Delicious, and Jonathon.

Cooking Apples

Almost all cooking apples are home-grown. Variety’s include:

  • Grenadier (August and September)
  • Lord Derby (October onwards)
  • Bramley's Seedling (end October to July)
  • Newton Wonder (December to March)
  • Early Victory (July and August)

Crab Apples

These small, apple like fruits are not usually available in the shops. The acid flesh is used for jellies and pickles, Season: September and October.


Small stone fruits with yellow, juicy sweet flesh. Buy firm fruits, avoiding any with bruised or squashy, brown skins. Season: May to August and December to February.


Both sweet and acid cherries are available over a short summer season. Many are imported, but the best white and black cherries are home-grown. Buy firm and dry cherries and avoid containers with a high percentage of leaves to berries.

Dessert varieties are either white (or pink) and black. The berries have juicy flesh which varies from white-yellow to dark red. Among the many home-grown cherryvarieties, the following are most often seen:

  • Napoleon Bigarreau (mid to late June)
  • Frogmore Early (late June)
  • Merton Heart (late June to end July)

The acid Morello cherry is suitable for jam-making (July to August). Imported cherries are available from April to August.


These smooth-skinned stone fruits are a variety of peach, and have a juicy and sweet flesh. They are served as a dessert fruit. Most nectarines are imported, and are in season during autumn and winter. Home-grown nectarines are available July to September. Nectarines are usually expensive, and sold when fully ripe and perfect; use on the day of purchase.


There are two types. Free-stone peaches have juicy soft flesh which comes easily away from the stone. Cling stone peaches have firmer flesh adhering tightly to the stone. Free-stone peaches are considered to have a better flavour but are seldom seen in shops. Avoid any which have splits or those with bruised skins and brown or soft spots. Imported peaches are available from March to December and English hothouse peaches from May to October.


Like apples, pears are divided into dessert and cooking varieties. Many are home-grown and, with imported supplies, pears are available from June to April. Pears bruise easily and should be handled with care; they are best bought before fully ripe and left in the airing cupboard for 2-3 days. Ripe pears will yield when gently pressed at the stalk end.

pearsThe following are varieties of dessert pears and can also be served poached or lightly stewed.

  • Conference, a tapering dark green pear, heavily spotted with russet; creamy-pink, juicy and sweet flesh (home-grown, end September to February)
  • Doyenne du Comice, large oval-shaped pear with pale yellow skin, occasionally flushed with red or russet; pale yellow, very juicy, cinnamon-flavoured flesh (home-grown end October to December; imported, March to June)
  • William's Bon Chretien, medium tapering pear with pale green skin turning yellow; juicy and sweet flesh (home-grown, August)

Among the other varieties of dessert pear are:

  • Emile d' Heyst (imported, end September to November)
  • Packham's Triumph, (home-grown, October and November; imported, February to June)
  • Winter Nelis (home-grown, November to January; imported, February to July)

Cooking pears are available from October to December.
Pitmaston Duchess is nearly round and with tough yellow to green skin, irregularly spotted with russet. The cream-yellow flesh is soft and juicy.


These include both dessert and culinary varieties. Gages are a type of plum, round and green to yellow in colour. Damsons, too are plums with dark blue to black skin; they are oval in shape and smaller than gages, and should only be used cooked and for jam-making. Dessert plums should be firm to the touch, with a bloom on the skin; they are often sold slightly under-ripe and can be kept in a cool larder for 1-3 days before serving. Imported plums are available from January to March; use at once.

Among the varieties of plum's are:

  • Czar, large, dark blue, culinary or dessert plum with golden flesh and red juice (early August)
  • Pershore, tapering dessert plum, with yellow, faintly red-tinted skin and sometimes mealy flesh (August)
  • Victoria, large oval plum, yellow flushed with scarlet, sweet and juicy flesh, suitable for dessert and bottling (late August)
  • Kirke's Blue, a large, purple-black plum with a distinct bloom and juicy dark flesh.

Other varieties of plums include:

  • Warwickshire Drooper (September)
  • Cherry Plum (August)
  • Monarch (September)

quincesAmong varieties of gages are:

  • Ouillin'sGolden Gage (August)
  • Cambridge Gage (August)


These are sometimes available in the shops during October and November. They have tough golden skin when ripe, and the firm acid flesh is highly aromatic. Used for jams and jellies, or to flavour pies.


The shiny brown fruits of the sweet chestnut are enclosed in a fleshy outer covering which breaks open when the nuts are ripe. Avoid any that look dry and shrivelled. Season; October to December. The large French chestnuts, 'marrons', are sold tinned or preserved.

Hazel Nuts 

The small, grey-brown nuts are partly covered with leafy husks. Ripe, fresh nuts should have firm, not shrivelled, husks. Available throughout the autumn.

nutsFilbert Nuts

These are a variety of hazel nut, but the fruit are flask-shaped and should be completely covered by firm husks.


Most of these nuts are imported for the Christmas trade. The brown shells should have a faint damp sheen. Avoid any which rattle, as they will be dry and shrivelled. Green or under-ripe walnuts are sometimes seen in September and October. They may be eaten fresh, but are more often used for pickling.

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