Spain’s Fruit Is A Total Let Down

“The food tastes nothing like it does back home…” is such a cliched expat gripe that I’m almost ashamed to join in. But today, I’m going at it hell for leather. A burst water pipe put me in the right mood. I now have a spare bedroom Home Spa with a ceiling-to-wall water feature feeding a rapidly expanding infinity pool on what was once a shiny hardwood floor.

Right, let’s get to it. I’ve not moved countries for the first time in my life, so I’m used to missing many beloved food items. Decent bread, for instance, is hard to find outside of Germany/Austria/Switzerland, and if you’re used to proper English tea, you’re going to have to find yourself a teabag mule once you take flight from the rainy British Isles. That’s just how it is, and you expect that.

But there are certain things you don’t expect to be in short supply when you move to a sunny country. I’d never have thought that in Spain, I’d miss decent fruit. Yes, you read that right. In the very country, which is Europe’s biggest exporter of fresh produce, I find the fresh fruit offering terribly lacking.

Spanish Straws: Look great. Taste of nothing.

Let’s start with strawberries. We all know Spanish strawberries, right? (Well, if you happen to live in Europe, you do.) It’s those turnip textured red things which start arriving en masse in supermarkets and greengrocers around February. They sure do look like strawberries, but they taste of absolutely zilch. And what’s worse – they are CRUNCHY, for Pete’s sake! HOW WRONG IS THAT?!

Now, because my work is tightly connected with the food industry, I’m well aware that many countries grow two different “types” of fresh produce – produce for domestic consumption (which tastes great but doesn’t transport well) and produce for export. Those turnippy aberrations are excellently suited for the latter – you can toss those into the back of a lorry and truck them across the entire continent, and even after a week in transit punctuated by the odd motorway pile-up, they will emerge at the other end looking fresh and dewy and miraculously unbruised. And if you’re a supermarket that wants to display perfect looking strawberries on its shelves, this is exactly what you want. It’s all about durability and shelf life.

I naively assumed that Spain had two types of strawberries, i.e. those engineered for export, and those divine creations, which were surely spun by the angels from crimson sunset-dipped cotton candy clouds, and which fall from the heavens in the month June.

But I was wrong. I’ve quizzed friends about this, and the response has been a puzzled stare, as if I had been enquiring about the fairies living at the bottom of their garden. Unlike the good people in countries like the UK, Germany and Sweden, Spaniards only know turgid turnipberries. They have no idea of the gloriousness of putting a REAL strawberry into your mouth, and squishing it into a sweet, succulent mush, without it ever touching your teeth.

It’s always a good idea to wrap any dangerous missiles…

Next in for a lambasting are mangoes. All I can find here are those horrible red-green coloured harpy eggs from Brazil. I’m convinced that they are, in fact, a byproduct of cricket ball manufacture. Their fibrous, acrid, slightly slimy interior remains as hard and rubbery as a British Bobby’s baton right up until they start to rot in your fruit bowl.

Nowhere to be seen in Spain are those delectable golden yellow Pakistani mangoes with their rice-pudding soft, perfume-scented flesh that just melts in your mouth, which you can pick up all over London for six quid a box.

And there’s no point pleading with the greengrocers, although some will tell you, with a churlish grin on their faces, that there’s no broccoli to be had because “it’s not in season right now” (WTF?!), and they will quite happily import woody Chilean asparagus stalks so rigid that you could use them for knitting needles.

Pakistani Mangoes

Oh, how I miss you, my luscious friends…

But it is Spain’s apple situation, which is probably the biggest disappointment of them all. I sorely miss English Apples. Coxes. Orange Pippins. REAL apples, with just a few brown flecks on the outside and crispy flesh imbued with that perfect balance of tartness and sweetness on the inside. No such thing as Bramley cooking apples here either. All I’ve seen in Spain so far are generic, polished, sterile fruit that looks and tastes like syrup-injected candle wax fluffed up with polystyrene. Sure, those blemish-free mutants are found in supermarkets all over the globe, but usually, in most other places, there are at least some tasty native mongrels populating the shelves during the autumn months.

Red Delicious – a misnomer if ever there was one. Get this thing away from me!

Where art thou, my lovely Cox?

Where art thou, my lovely Cox?

I realise, of course, that people across Spain have the most sumptuous fruit sprouting in their back gardens, but, as nobody grows these varieties commercially, the good stuff just isn’t entering supermarket supply chains. Ho hum 😦

So, is there any fresh produce you really miss?

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44 thoughts on “Spain’s Fruit Is A Total Let Down

  1. Lynda

    When I lived in California, I too thought that the red and gold delicious were a cruel joke. They may have been red, and gold, but they certainly were not delicious! Then I tasted my first just picked from the tree, Red and Gold Delicious apples (from the local apple orchard) and WOW! They really can be delicious if given the proper time on the tree. However, if travel to market is involved, then they will be insipid every time.

    Growing citrus in my own back yard! And I know it is not produce, but I miss FRESH fish. Living this far inland means that by the time it gets to market it is already beginning to smell ‘fishy’. Fresh fish does not smell fishy, and I won’t eat it if it does.

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Aw yes, I bet some varieties of G and R delicious are worthy of their name, and certainly if picked when perfectly ripe and warm from the sun. Sigh.
      Now, the fish and seafood offering is excellent in Spain, top marks!
      I think in medieval times, water fowl was considered “fish” (i.e. people were allowed to eat geese and ducks during lent). That makes you an aquaculturist πŸ˜‰

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  2. Anna

    OH DEAR. I never would have guessed you’d have that problem in Spain. I mean, I dont remember much (my main food group during my Madrid days was Mahou) but I do remember the fruit being better than in the US (but not as good as in Russia or France). Now in Russia I am happy with the stuff I get from the open market/from village grandmas, but at the big supermarkets it’s all sorts of imported crap. I mean, Russia is importing potatoes from Israel. EFFING POTATOES? IN RUSSIA? It’s a joke.

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Aw, the joys of global food supply chains… and of course the stuff you get off some babushka’s datcha is fantastic. It would be here, but I can’t get hold of it.
      Soon you’ll have your own πŸ™‚

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  3. linnetmoss

    Tea mules? I love it. But I am so sorry to hear of your infinity pool.
    Of course we Americans are delighted to buy all the inferior fruit that has had the flavor genetically engineered out of it, besides being doused with pesticide, fungicide and gas to make it the right color. For all I know, they spray it with paint. The last time I had a really delicious strawberry, it was one I grew myself.

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  4. bevchen

    Turnippy strawberries? Errrm… WTF?!

    I miss satsumas. All I can find in Germany is clementines 😦

    I don’t need a tea mule though… there’s an Asia shop that sells HUGE boxes of PG Tips πŸ˜‰

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  5. pollyheath

    Weird, because I associate Spain with good produce. I think we get a lot of tropical fruit from Spain over here, but everything’s such crap that I guess it’s hard to compare.

    I’m totally with you on the mangoes, though. I thought I hated mangoes until I went to Mexico and had the yellow kind, picked fresh off of the tree. (Oh, please excuse my drooling…)

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Well, the oranges are nice, and of course there’s good bananas coming from the Canaries. It’s not all bad.
      Oooooh, proper mangoes… there’s thousands of delicious varieties. But only a handful of commercially grown ones, and most of those are abysmal.

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  6. Santi Kalf

    I have bought some amazing strawberries in the middle of the winter on a market in Mallorca and they were ace. Perhaps Toledo is too far away from where they grow them. I spend as a child many summers in Murcia (la huerta de EspaΓ±a, they called it…they told me) and there I got overdosed on melocotones. I still won’t touch them

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      Mallorca has a very specific climate, I think… and yes, they say that about Murcia πŸ™‚ But they mainly grow that awful commercial stuff that survives transportation, storage, and still has plenty of shelf life left after that. Of course, some fruit and veg is nice. I do like the peaches πŸ™‚

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      1. Expat Eye

        Ha, she used to love reading the comments – she’s a big fan of yours! Then it got to last week… Now she’s telling me I need to be ‘nice’ – ugh. ‘Nice’ – the worst of all the adjectives. That and ‘pleasant’ – if someone described me as either, I think I’d kill myself. πŸ™‚

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      2. ladyofthecakes Post author

        Yup, that’s pretty much on a par with ‘insipid’ πŸ˜‰ Aw, your poor mum is probably worried about you getting beaten into a pulp in the street.
        Go write a post about lovely Latvian cakes – it’ll be a winner on all fronts. Especially on mine.

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  7. Karolyn Cooper

    I love your “cricket ball mango” paragraph. I would almost consider flying to India for a week in June just to eat mangoes. With a few bananas for variety.

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  8. Every Day Adventures in Asia

    The ONLY strawberries that actually taste like REAL strawberries with that incredible burst of sweet tart mind-blowing flavour are the ‘wild’ small flavour power packed strawberries grown in my parents backyard. Nothing else even comes close.

    Which is why the jam made from these is pure manna from heaven and I jealously guard/ grudgingly spare a spoonful so carefully that one bottle lasts years! Want some? Sorry! I DO NOT share… some things are meant to be selfishly hoarded! πŸ™‚

    As for mangoes… well… I live in India and there are ways of getting the ‘good ones’ of all varieties in different seasons! Have you ever tried mango curry? Best is cold on hot rice – my partner makes it and OMG it is addictive! But… you got to have the right mangoes for it.

    Broccoli used to be near impossible to get in India – now there are places where you can get just about anything – for a PRICE! And that means steep price!

    I prefer to just cook with whatever is plentiful and in season and keep trying out different things. So. .. suffer from relatively few cravings of fruits / veggies from ‘home’.

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      I guess not…I imagine India to have a delicious and plentiful supply of fresh fruit and veg. I love mango chutney with a hot curry, so I can quite believe that mango curry would work very well. I’d love some!

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      1. Every Day Adventures in Asia

        I have a few succulent ones remaining but… tough to share across the many miles separating Spain and India! They key to the ‘plentiful fresh fruit & veggies” is to be flexible for what is in season… not everything is great every time of year and why should they be!?

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  9. barbedwords

    Sounds exactly like Italy, where all the fresh produce is supposed to taste like ambrosia from the gods…but doesn’t come anywhere near the quality of fruit and veg from Waitrose (ah, Waitrose – I’ll be back inside your hallowed ground in three days time!!) If I go to the proper market, they always seem to palm me off with the bruised plums and scraped-off-the-floor lettuces, obviously thinking an English person wouldn’t know any better. Well, think on – we do!

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      So it’s the same in Italy?? That surprises me. And, at the same time it’ doesn’t. I always come back with at least two bruised/manky items from the local greengrocers. I want to choose my own stuff!!!!!! It’s totally menacing. It seems cheaper than the supermarket, because I pay for the wastage.
      Waitrose…I want Waitrose….I’m so jealous!

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  10. camparigirl

    Well, no, it’s not the same in Italy. It is if you go to the large supermarkets but every Italian city is bursting with street markets and greengorcers . Some greengrocers have fallen prey to the carted in stuff from god knows where but mostly you can still buy tasty fruit and vegetables. Not terribly cheap though.
    Here in LA it’s heaven. Most things are grown year round (aside from tomatoes) and, provided you go to the Farmer’s markets, they taste delicious. In supermarkets, it’s waxed apples and asparagus from Chile. What is sad though is that, all over the world, moderately priced fruit and vegetables are picked before their time, trucked hundreds of miles and tasteless.

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  11. Giovannoni Claudine

    The reason could be that the best goods are for export!
    This happens not only in Spain, but everywhere…
    Clear, in this circumstance even if you buy sesonal-products maybe you should go directly to the farmer: here you could choose from! Wish you a lovely day :-)c

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    1. ladyofthecakes Post author

      No, the worst goods are for export, at least where fruit and veg is concerned, because the only thing that counts in this category is SHELF LIFE, which usually comes at the expense of flavour and texture. Why do you think that our supermarket tomatoes taste of fuck all? (Unless you’ve grown them yourself, or from a local farmer, that is).

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      1. Giovannoni Claudine

        This is globalisation… my dear! I don’t know where we are “landing” (the future for our generations looks quite black)… Actually I do grow tomatoes in my garden, a nice solution, for these people without veg-garden, is to grow cherrytomatoes in pots on the garden or in house. My mom does it, with great success… We could talk for days… have a lovely day πŸ™‚
        c

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