Sunday, 25 July 2010
Get your fruit from the man on the street
The fruit you can buy from small market stalls peppering London's pavements might not be organic, or always sourced from UK farms, but I think it tastes so much better than what you can buy in the supermarket. These stalls aren’t flashy or posh – they’re just geezers selling fruit out of cartons at the roadside. But the difference in quality compared to a supermarket is amazing – when I buy a nectarine or apricot from a supermarket, three times out of five they are bullet hard and either go mouldy upon ripening, or don't taste of anything much at all.
I would like to say a big 'hurrah' for my regular 'Fruit Man' whose stall is near House of Fraser on Victoria Street in central London. Recently I have bought nectarines from him that are properly ripe upon purchase or that ripen to perfection in the fruit bowl, and taste so perfumed that you believe that they have fallen off the tree in Italy into your lap. The same goes for his fantastic white peaches – the curiously shaped flat variety – they taste so good! Until recently I had banned myself from buying apricots in the supermarket, because they are so disappointing, but you can ripen up the ones from his fruit stall until they almost taste of summer in the South of France...
Fruit Man of Victoria Street is there every week day, transistor radio blaring out classical music, and he always stocks the more interesting varieties. For example, I had never encountered a flat white peach before seeing them here, and he always has interesting seasonal UK produce, such as the best of the strawberries, raspberries and greengage plums. You can smell the heady aroma of the berries when you pick the cartons up, wafting out of the punnets like an intoxicating drug!
Fruit Man always adds the personal touch – he can tell you how long to leave something to ripen up, or what’s tasting particularly good that day. He is proud of the fact that he gets his fruit fresh from Covent Garden market every day. “I don’t eat rubbish,” he says. Quite right. He adds lovely signs written in old fashioned handwriting, with messages such as ‘Please don’t squeeze me until I’m yours’ and is excited about the figs and grapes that will soon be flooding in. Sometimes he pops a free avocado into my bag.
Here is some of his produce lovingly installed in my tiny kitchen...
Yellow nectarines and flat white peaches (note the smaller, more insipid nectarines on the far left that come from Sainsbury's), and apricots in the paper bag:
White nectarines and greengage plums:
Why would I buy my fruit anywhere else? You don’t get this service in the bleak over-refrigerated atmosphere of a Tesco. By buying your fruit from small stalls, you're supporting small independent businesses and not doing all your food shopping through the supermarket monopoly. Spending a few less quid per week in the supermarket won't hurt the fatcats one little bit, but it will make a huge difference to the fruit man on the street. Right on - and peachy!
Got a favourite market street stall you can recommend? I want to hear about it...