You know when it is time to eat a peach when you walk past your favourite verdularía and the air is heavy with the scent of them. UK supermarkets are full of air-mile loaded, early picked, temperature and atmosphere controlled, perfectly formed and infinitely varied offerings, all of which have one thing in common. They taste of very little. Here the numerous little stores offer a more limited selection of fruit and veg that has been picked ripe and transported as far as an open truck can take them without rottenness seriously diminishing the yield. They may fail on the expected uniformity stakes but are generally delicious. It’s important to be a regular though. If your friendly bolivian (they are the kings of verdulería) thinks you are just a passing gringo, the mix of perfectly ripe and overripe will bend towards their commercial imperatives. If you are an exigent and interested local those beautiful peaches will last 3 days in the fridge and you wont have to throw away a quarter of your mandarins while soliciting their delightful juice.
While many (mainly expats) complain about the lack of choice, I happily eat the spring asparagus 3 times a week for the extent of its 6 week season. Yes there is asparagus available for much longer, but the sugar content of the spring stuff means it roasts and caramelises in a little oil in about 2 minutes. Cook up a big batch and the remainder tastes even better the next day with a generous addition of sea salt. Strawberries? I never knew what the fuss was about despite the cream-full Wimbledon tradition. Here they come purple and strongly flavoured and cheap as chips. Spinach, not that insipid baby stuff, but proper solid leaves. And acelga, tough and bitter, perfect to cook with a hefty cream and blue cheese sauce. And them comes autumn and the brussel sprouts, blanched and then fried with smoky pancetta.
So yes, I’m sure I’d love it if I could buy a horned melon fresh from the Kalahari Desert or a Mangosteen from the Sunda Islands, once they have developed a tardis to get them ripe from the plant directly to my Boliviano. Until then I’ll be sticking to the mangoes that have been lobbed on a lorry in Brazil and gently roasted on the journey.