Fresh produce is still a seasonal proposition, though modern transportation and storage have made more out-of-season fruits available to a wider market. Most produce sold in the markets is graded for size and quality, from extra to primera, first, to segunda, second. Prices will vary by grade, as well as from one town to the next. Out-of-season fruits are obviously more expensive than the seasonal ones, which are often grown locally.


Quite a few varieties, available year-round. New crop starts coming in midsummer through early fall.


Apricots must be tree-ripened and then consumed or conserved promptly, because they neither keep well nor travel well. Available early summer through July.


Though a native of the New World, the avocado has become naturalized in southern Spain, where great plantations of this fruit are grown. Most varieties mature through the winter months, but there are usually avocados available all year round.


The bulk of the banana crop comes from the tropical Canary Islands, where it grows very sweet, though some are grown in southern Spain. Domestic crop is called plátano, imported fruit are referred to as banana.


Green, pear-shaped and faceted, this fruit looks a little like an oversize hand grenade. Inside the flesh is white with shiny black seeds randomly distributed throughout. It tastes like a creamy, lemon-pineapple pudding. Buy it underripe and firm, eat when it's soft to the touch. It is available in late fall, early winter.


Different varieties carry different names, like cereza, guinda and picota. They vary from deep red, almost black cherries to those that are yellow-orange, and in taste from very sweet to very sharp. Their season is early summer.


Fruit of the date palm, this super-sweet fruit is grown in Spain and also imported.


The fig tree is as much part of the Spanish landscapes as the olive. The first figs appear in early summer. These are the brevas, plump black figs which are sold at fancy prices. By late summer the ordinary variety ripens.


Available fall through spring.


Many varieties of grapes are grown, some specially for the making of wines. Of the eating grapes, possibly the most famous is the muscatel, the Málaga grape. Grapes come into the markets in late summer and last until New Year's Eve, when they are consumed, one at each of the chimes of midnight, to assure twelve months of good fortune in the coming year.


A tropical fruit grown in the Canary Islands, it is found in some supermarkets.


Lemons are available year-round and some varieties bear fruit and flowers at the same time. There are thick-skinned and thin-skinned types and some varieties come to market quite green. These are usually quite juicy and flavourful in spite of their colour.


Not widely available, a substitution for lemons.


A pear-shaped, plum-sized fruit of a deep yellow colour. The flesh is very sweet, slightly grainy. Season is late spring, early summer.


Many varieties of superb melon are grown in Spain, from those with pale green flesh to deep orange flesh. To be sweet, melon must be vine-ripened. To store melons for eating during the winter, try suspending them by string from the ceiling in a cool pantry. Watermelon is called sandía. In many places you can buy a half or quarter of a large watermelon.


First and foremost in the region is the almond, almendra, widely grown. Spain is the world's second largest almond producer. They are available in the shell, shelled, blanched, toasted, salted. The other best-loved nut is not actually a nut, but an underground legume: the peanut or cacahuete. Cashews are anacardos, Brazil nuts are nueces de Brazil, walnuts are nueces de nogal, pecans are nueces americanas, hazelnuts are avellanas, pistachios are pistachos. Chestnuts are castañas and they come into the markets in the fall when vendors sell them roasted in the streets.


The Spanish name for this fruit comes from the Sanskrit, naranga, which the Moors brought to Spain with the fruit. Their oranges where bitter ones, appreciated for their ornamental value and the aroma of the peel and blossoms. Portuguese travellers in the 15th century brought sweet oranges from China and today, most eating oranges are called chinas in Spain. Oranges are in season from fall through spring. Skin colour is affected by night-time temperatures and very warm nights can keep fully ripe oranges green.


Peaches are a fruit of full summer. Their colour ranges from almost crimson to pale orange-ish to almost yellow. They must be tree-ripened. Nectarines are a smooth-skinned variety of peach, usually available before peaches come in.


A summer to early winter fruit which seems to be available all year round. Pears come in an enormous range of colours and sizes, some as big as grapefruit. Pears are usually picked when not quite ripe.


Looks like a small tomato when fully ripe. This fruit comes into the markets in the fall. It must be allowed to mature.


Grown in the Canary Islands, pineapples are available in shops particularly at holiday times such as Christmas. A ripe pineapple should have a full, musky aroma. Inside, the flesh should be pale yellow.


Plums last through the summer in the markets. Ciruelas pasas are dried plums, or prunes.


Pomegranates, which ripen in early fall, are not always available in the markets, though they grow widely in southern Spain. The look like a hard-skinned apple, blushed with red, and tufted. Inside the fruit is filled with jewel-like red kernels, the edible seeds.

Prickly Pear
higo chumbo

This prickly cactus was once planted around isolated farms as a fencing. The fruit is pear-shaped, a rosy-yellow colour, and covered with a spiny skin. It is often sold by street vendors who will peel the fruit for you. They can also be harvested in the wild, but never handle them with bare hands until peeled.


The quince looks like an oversized, somewhat knobbly, yellow apple. It is harder and grainier than an apple and, though it can be eaten fresh, is most often cooked. Quince comes into season in the fall.


This dainty member of the citrus family is the first to appear in the markets in the fall and the last to finish the season, with the seedless clementinas in the spring. They seem to spoil more readily than oranges, so buy them fresh and use promptly.