The supermarkets’ obsession with exotic fruit is leading to the neglect of British classics such as gooseberries and damsons.

So now we can add the baobab to the list of weird and wonderful fruit novelties on supermarket shelves. Loaded with vitamin C, they may just give goji berries a run for their money, but more likely they’ll end up on the ever-lengthening list of strange and stupid fruits that arrived in a PR puff then promptly disappeared into obscurity.

Remember the kiwano, or horned melon? How could you forget the spikes and the jelly centre that tasted of zilch? Whatever happened to the puce, hand grenade-shaped pitahaya? I tasted them in Vietnam, and take my word for it, they had no discernible flavour whatsoever, even there.

There was the strawmato, just a marketing gimmick really, since it was just a sickly sweet tomato. And what is it about watermelons that encourages experimentation? Weren’t square watermelons going to be the next big fruit innovation ? Or was that seedless watermelons ? Or am I mixing that up with the infamous stoneless avocado that bombed because it couldn’t quite get its act together to ripen, a small point previously overlooked by the marketing boys. 

Meanwhile, I’ve spotted another trend this summer. Supermarkets seem to have decided that no-one in Britain likes gooseberries. Do they have it in for them because they are hairy and need topping and tailing? You can’t find them in supermarkets at all, yet my greengrocer has been stocking them on and off for a month. He gets them from a local fruit farm.

I have observed the same phenomenon in the past few years with damsons. You can bet that your local supermarket will have physalis, golden kiwis and starfruit 365 days of the year, but it can’t even stock this native fruit in early autumn. English rhubarb merits similar endangered status. Anytime I see it in a supermarket, it’s sold in such tokenistic amounts, and is so expensive, you get the feeling that the produce manager would fall flat in the aisle with amazement if anyone actually bought any.

In straitened economic types, people aren’t going to pay for gimmicks. More usefully, our multiples could relax all their ridiculous produce specifications, which amount to the horticultural equivalent of body fascism, and offer shoppers good deals on grade 2 British fruit and veg. It’s time to ditch the Tomorrow’s World obsession with the novel and the exotic and focus on putting more local fruits on our shelves.n

Joanna Blythman is a food journalist and author of Bad Food Britain