Last month our Friday market stalls were full of peaches, nectarines and apricots - three of my favourite fruits and all at the height of their season. Now the season has passed. Nectarines have disappeared completely and the peaches which are still available have lost that luscious juiciness. So what has come in their place?
Years ago it would have been Beauty of Kent, James Grieve, Worcester Pearmain, Cox's Orange Pippin, Ellison's Orange Pippin, Beauty of Bath - and a whole range of other eating apples. Sadly, certainly up here in Yorkshire, none of these is available. Are they still grown in the apple-growing areas? I don't know, but they certainly don't arrive in markets and shops up here - we seem to have a choice of Golden Delicious (tasteless), Braeburn (which I think come from New Zealand) and New Zealand Cox's (maybe English Cox's later in the year).
But I am not despairing - for what has arrived in record numbers this year is the Victoria Plum. My favourite English fruit - so ripe that it slips off the stone. I buy a pound on the market and by the time I arrive home (they have been on the passenger seat in the car) I have eaten them all. It is a crime to cook them - they are far too tasty.
They were, of course, named after Queen Victoria. The first tree was discovered in a garden at Alderton in Sussex. It was introduced commercially into Sweden in 1844 by a nursery owner called Denyer and is apparently very popular there still, where it is called 'Denyer's Victoria'. But an English Victoria Plum takes a lot of beating - try one sometime.