THESE last few mornings I’ve been having apple, chopped up small, as part of my breakfast. Raw apple, juicy, crunchy, freshly harvested, and UK-grown is an early autumn treat, almost exotic, because I avoid apples, unless cooked, from January until August.

Tough-skinned, granular flesh, the majority imported from far-flung countries, apples are a year-round staple of the dreary British fruit bowl. Alongside sit bananas, that starch masquerading as a fruit, each one the equivalent of six teaspoons of sugar. Oranges are a must; custom and practice dictates that they are exceptionally hard to peel, mainly because they were picked under-ripe on the instructions of UK supermarkets so they ‘last’ forever.

Pears? Another disappointing lottery. Expect hard, green British specimens that are doomed never to ripen satisfactorily, or their ‘ripe and ready’, thin-skinned continental counterparts that turn to a sludge at an ambient temperature.

I can still remember the sickly smell of the uneaten apples, pears and bananas that came back from school in my children’s lunch boxes. I couldn’t blame the kids for not eating them. They were a token nod towards the 5-a-day healthy eating mantra, not appetising food.

I ditched this 365-day-a-year assembly decades ago, for a radically different approach: eat what’s in season until it’s coming out your ears and then forget it for another year. So this is how my fruit cycle works.

August is the tail-end of the European stone fruit season. You’ll see some nectarines, peaches, apricots, cherries, a tail end of berries, but they’re past their best, some decent French and Spanish melons, the best of the European grapes, and Turkish sultana grapes. Homegrown fruity action has moved onto plums, Victorias and Marjorie Seedlings, and early apples, that pink-skinned, white fleshed Discovery variety that’s so fleeting because it doesn’t store well.

Come September, I’m looking out for fresh Turkish figs and more varieties of UK-grown apples, Cox’s Pippins and especially ‘heritage’ varieties like the inimitable Egremont Russet. British pears come into their element as we get fully into winter. The art is to buy large, hard ones, let them ripen at room temperature, not in a bowl, which will crush them, but on a plate. It might take a week to get to the perfect eating point when the juice runs down your fingers. For eating raw, you can’t beat Comice. Conference pears can be good too, and they’re the chef’s favourite for cooking.

In midwinter, to supplement apples and pears I rely on frozen berries, the ecological answer to the air-freighted, plastic-packed, ‘fresh’ equivalent. Frozen berries are enormously improved by slight warming, which brings out their flavours and makes them more of a compote. No need for added sugar. October and November sees the arrival of Turkish and Iranian pomegranates with their jewel-like seeds. Stored at low temperature, these keep for months. Fragrant quinces come from the same places. Just split them in two and bake them in water and sugar with a curl of lemon zest or a vanilla pod.

Pre-Christmas, the Moroccan and European small citrus harvest brightens up our choice, oranges come on stream, especially blood oranges, usually Sicilian, the latter brighten up gloomy January. Pale pink ‘forced’ rhubarb is the rosy highlight of testing February, then I return to stored or frozen fruits again until the end of April when Indian Alphonso and Kesar mangoes arrive to be followed in May by Pakistani varieties: Chaunsa, Sindhri and more.

May until June, it’s the berries. Early varieties of strawberries, like Sonata and Evie, outperform the later ones. Gooseberries’ and blackcurrants’ moment is June and July. Raspberries are always a safer bet in taste terms than overrated blueberries, which in my experience, are mushy duds more often than not. Midsummer, let’s gorge on French and Spanish nectarines, peaches, and cherries, the latter English for preference. In September, there’s heaps of brambles for the foraging. Autumn Bliss and other late varieties of full-flavoured raspberries continue into October, and so my fruit year continues, without ever eating a banana or an imported apple.

The seasonality of fruit isn’t apparent in supermarkets. Step out of them and the natural rhythm to the fruit year is apparent, and so much more enticing.

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