A number of English Apple varieties are due to come into season in October (see October Fruit Bowl), a couple of which I’d like to single out for particular attention, namely Howgate Wonder and Egremont Russett. Originally bred purely as a dessert fruit, the Howgate Wonder has over time acquired a reputation as a great all-round culinary apple. This is because it contains just the right amount of acid to tenderise the fruit during cooking whilst still preserving a high degree of firmness and texture, yet possesses enough natural sweetness to reduce the need to add extra sugar to counteract the tartness of the acid. It's ideal for use in both sweet and savoury dishes, dressings and sauces, as an accompaniment to various types of cheese, or, indeed, for making cider. Egremont Russet possesses a brownish-green, rough-textured skin whose flesh early on will be yielding but nevertheless quite crunchy, slightly acidic and reminiscent of dry cider with elements of almond. As the the apple matures, however, it becomes softer, more floury in texture and quite a bit sweeter.
English Comice Pears should be available by mid-month. They’re usually quite large and bulbous and possess golden skins with a feint, pale-orange blush. The flesh is slightly grainy, sweet and melting and ever-so-slightly suggestive of almond-infused vanilla.
English Outdoor Rhubarb is likely to be unavailable in October, but new season, greenhouse grown Dutch Champagne Rhubarb should make an appearance by week two or three of the month.
New season North American Fresh Cranberries, usually packaged in 340g bags, should start to arrive by about the third week of October.
Fresh Figs normally start experiencing shortages and subsequent price hikes from around mid-October during the stransition form Mediterranean and north African crops to Brazilian ones.
Early in the month should see the arrival from Spain of the Kumato which, as the name vaguely hints at, is a type of Tomato. The approximate size of a large salad variety, it possesses both skin and flesh whose colour gradually changes from dark green to brown during the various stages of ripening, but can in fact be eaten at any point during this process. Whilst still at the green stage its flavour is clean and mildly acidic and its texture is good for cooking, but as the skin becomes browner it develops a sweet spiciness that’s ideal for salsas, salads and sandwiches.
British Regular (trimmed) and Leaf (un-trimmed) Celeriac should both be in season by mid-October. Leaf Celeriac still has the stalks and leaves attached (the part of the plant that grows above ground) which, once removed, would normally be sold separately as Leaf Celery.
The UK salad season will have all but reached its end in October, with only Iceberg and Cos Lettuces still available by mid-month. This means that we’ll most likely be relying on French imports to provide us with Lollorosso, Biondi, Frisee, etc.
Mid-month should see the arrival in the market of both Toffee and Chocolate Apples in time for Halloween, and should continue to be available at least until after Bonfire Night. Be on the lookout, too, for any related seasonal special offers, such as Pumpkins, Mixed Squashes, Baking Potatoes, Vac-Pack Chestnuts, etc.
English new season Purple Sprouting Broccoli should arrive around mid-month.
By about week two British new season Beet Spinach, aka Spinach Beet or Spinach Chard should have arrived. Not in fact a member of the spinach family at all, but, as one of its alternative names suggests, a type of Chard, it does, however, share many of spinach’s characteristics, and although slightly more bitter, boiling or steaming produces a sweeter, milder flavour. Its stalks, too, are edible, the taste of which has been likened to that of asparagus.
English Medium Mixed Heritage Carrots (Orange, Yellow and Purple) should be available early in the month.
Home-grown Jerusalem Artichokes should be available by week 2 or 3.
Peruvian White Asparagus should be available in the market in limited numbers by week two or three. Traditionally the speciality of German growers (it is produced in the UK, but in very limited volumes by comparison), it compares very favourably with anything produced in Europe.
UK grown Borlotti Beans should be available by week three. The pods are inedible, but, once cooked, the ivory-white beans with cranberry-coloured mottling become nutty-flavoured and creamy-textured and can used extensively in both Italian and Portuguese cuisine. Simply place in a pan of cold water, bring to boil and then simmer for around 30min until soft and yielding.
Pointy-headed new season British Hispi (Sweetheart) Cabbage will likely be available early in the month. Hispi is a mid-green pointy-headed variety with a pale, compact, crunchy heart which possesses a mild, sweet flavour similar to Summer and Winter Greens.
October Fruit Bowl
Things can begin to get a little tricky for those assembling fruit bowls, displays and platters in October.
Peaches, Nectarines and Apricots are either non-existent, too expensive or too woolly to eat.
Italian Angelino Plums will look lovely, but their flavour may be a little bland for most tastes.
Cherries are likely to be either unobtainable or prohibitively expensive.
Seedless Grapes can taste superb, but are often over-ripe and sporting yeast patches and brown spots, as well being susceptible to dropping berries. You might perhaps consider opting for Seeded Red Globe or Seeded White Muscat Grapes as an alternative, which are usually of much better quality at this time of year.
Figs will start the month well but probably get tricky later on.
You shouldn't however become too despondent, because ''eating with the seasons'' has now become all the rage. This means that you will have the opportunity to make the most of the various English Apple varieties which should be available in abundance throughout the month - a couple of examples which have already been mentioned earlier.
English Comice and Conference Pears should be in good form, too.
Although the Southern Hemisphere Citrus season will be nearing its end, there’ll usually be some good Oranges and Mineolas to be found. By the end of the month, however, both new crop Okitsu and Fortuna Satsumas should be in from Spain.
There should be an abundance of exotic and tropical fruits (for at least part of the month) to provide visual impact, including Custard Apples, Grenadillos, Rambutans and Lychees, Prickly Pears, Red-Fleshed Dragon Fruit, new season Italian and Spanish Sharon Fruit and Persimmon, to name a few.