Soft fruit are a mixed bunch - some are orchard fruit, such as plums and cherries and at a stretch nectarines and peaches, some are lower growing such as strawberries, others grow on canes, including raspberries, gooseberries, and yet even more like grapes grow on vines.
Plums and cherries follow a similar story to apples and pears; they are traditionally very old fruit which lost favour during the Dark Ages, were reintroduced during the Middle Ages, gained popularity in Victorian times and are still very popular today.
Peaches and nectarines first came to Europe in the middle of the last millennium, around 1600, with apricots a few hundred years earlier, and from their follow a similar story to plums and cherries. It is likely that their hybrids, pluots, apriums, nectacots came about a while later.
The remainder of the fruit in this category can all come under the group of fruitcage fruits; without a fruit cage many of them will never fruit to their utmost productivity; their fruit are soft, easily spoilable, and very attractive to birds and small mammals. Most of the plants in this category are compact shrubby perennials; they were typically woodland plants before they were properly cultivated. It is likely that many cultivars came about by chance, from natural selection within mixed cultivation around early human settlements. Due to this reason, many of them may not have been properly cultivated until the Middle Ages, since they cropped so well growing wild. The notable exception is grapes, which have been cultivated since prehistory. Others such as strawberries have undergone much development and hybridisation to reach the point they are at today.
- Cantaloupe Melon - Cantaloupe melons, with their sweet, orange flesh, are one of the tastiest of the melon family.
- Galia Melon - Galia melons are similar to Cantaloupe, although they are slightly larger with a yellow green flesh, surrounded by a lightly netted yellow to yellow-green rind.
- Grapes - Grapes or their products are a familiar sight in any fruit bowl or wine rack.
- Honeydew Melon - Honeydew melons are more of a rugby or American football shape than the usual round shape of a melon, and are typically 15-25cm long.
- Nectarines - Like apples, nectarines come in their own ready to eat packaging, and are a superb fruit to eat out of hand, as well as being versatile for many recipes.
- Raspberry - One of the most delicate and delicious fruits available, raspberries are thought by many to rival strawberries as the finest fruit available.
- Strawberry - The strawberry is actually an accessory fruit. The soft, usually delicious red fruit we eat is technically a vegetable - the small yellow pips around the outside of the fruit are the actual fruit or seeds.