The NS guide to self-indulgence - Fruit

Oh misery! Even the mean little taste of summer that we've had so far reveals the unavoidable truth: months of self- indulgence, undertaken selflessly for NS readers, have taken their toll. Indulgence from now on must be fat-free, or last year's shorts have had it. Rejecting boiled cod, organic lettuce or low-calorie crispbread tastings, I had an inspiration. What about all those strangely shaped exotic fruits that supermarkets are always suggesting we try? Too small to contain any calories. Too pricey for gluttony.

In the interests of research, I piled my basket high with all manner of odd things: tamarillos, sapodillas, dragon fruit, rambutans, physalis and prickly pears. All fruits, with the exception of carambolas - a yellow-ridged oval fruit which cuts conveniently into star shapes - are distinctly ugly and spiny, but with oh-so-promising descriptions. Dragon fruit, for instance, are impressively lurid in colour and look vaguely threatening, but inside, they consist of a grey mush with dark seeds, tasting of absolutely nothing at all. Physalis, with crinkly wings that hide a sticky, orange oval, taste mildly of soap. Rambutans, which are unnervingly like a very elderly monkey's nether regions, taste exactly like your bog-standard Chinese restaurant lychee.

And that's the rub. Some of these fruits are as difficult to break into as Fort Knox. And the effort's not worth it. Every one of them tasted on the bland side of disgusting - and the most common taste was a rather sour perfumed candle with seeds inside.

Perhaps they are best ignored even in their exotic place of origin, but I suspect not. The answer is obvious to all but our big supermarket chains: fruit doesn't travel. So leave the mangosteens and the pepinos; treat yourself instead to a large bowl of home-grown raspberries or strawberries. Now, not next month, or when frozen. Local fruit, in season, is truly delicious.

This article first appeared in the 21 June 1999 issue of the New Statesman, Better to shop than to vote