In a new column with nourish, Kim Starling of Starling’s of Swaffham shares her love of winter fruits – and her favourite ways to enjoy them.

Growing up in the family business, that decades later I am lucky enough to now run, Christmas has always been such a hectic time. 

As a child, it meant listening to Christmas carols belting out from the ginormous speaker sitting majestically at the top of the cellar stairs. The air rich with the smell of peaty Fen celery and dad’s freshly cooked beet would entice customers in from the high street. It is still a busy shop, but it is now the music from the websites announcing a new order ringing through the air that accompanies the general hubbub and festive atmosphere. 

It still amazes me that our luxury fruit baskets, all carefully picked and packed by our team, are delivered all over the UK. We select some of the finest, freshest fruits to make colourful and delicious gifts. These are just a few of my favourites.

The Comice which has earned its nickname the Christmas pear because they are, in my opinion, at their absolute best during the Christmas holiday season, being at peak ripeness and deliciousness! The Comice has a smooth skin that is fragile and bruises easily, so they have to be handled with care. Their slightly comical, bulbous bottom belies a wonderful flavour that is exceptionally sweet and juicy when ripe. This queen of pears is best served raw and is a perfect pairing with a rich creamy cheese or sliced raw with watercress, spinach and walnuts in a winter salad. 

We are lucky enough to have a wonderful orchard nearby – Ashill Fruit Farm. It is such a joy to have so many of their fantastic varieties in our shop. In particular, I love the Jonagold with their crimson red and orange streaked skin and sweet but crisp flavour. I often cook with dessert apples such as Jonagold; I find they need less sugar and are super versatile.

The magnificent mango is without a doubt my favourite fruit. Okay, I say that a lot, I know, but there are just so many wonderful fruits to choose from. We include mangoes in our luxury fruit baskets and buy the tree-ripened varieties wherever possible as although a more expensive fruit, they are far superior in flavour. On buying a box of these we sometimes have one or two that are just too ripe to send out on our next day delivery service, so I have to take them home and enjoy them. It is a tough job being the quality controller at Starling’s… 

Medjool dates are a must. Sticky, sweet, and almost like caramel in flavour, these are harvested straight from the date palm, cleaned, sorted and packed right away. There is no processing and as they are not physically or chemically dried, they are in fact a fresh fruit. We sell oodles of these as they are just so good. 

Finally, last but not least, this is such a great time for oranges and my favourite has to be the Spanish Navel – so named as they have an indentation that looks like a human navel! Sweet, juicy, and usually pip free, these are easy to peel. Just lovely! 


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