Fruit

We’re not anticipating there’ll be a huge demand for it, but because it’s so unusual and doesn’t crop up very often, we think it’s worthy of a mention. I’m speaking of the Salak, commonly known as Snake Fruit. Native to Java and Sumatra, Snake Fruit derives its name from the fact that its dark brown skin possess a scaly, serpent-like appearance and feel. It is similar in size and shape to that of a fig, and beneath the easily removable, slightly leathery skin you’ll find a creamy-white fruit in 3 segments which look a bit like garlic cloves, with each segment containing a hard, inedi-ble brown seed. The texture of the flesh is crisp and crunchy and its flavour, which is sweet yet acidic, has been likened to that of pineapple combined with the slight astringency associated with raw chestnut. Snake fruit is called the “Fruit of Memory” in Indonesia and contains high levels of potassium, pectin, and vitamin C, as well as nutrients such as thiamine, iron and calcium. Its most common uses include pie fillings, jams and preserves; it can also be candied, pickled or made into syrup. If it appears at all, it’s likely to trickle into the market in limited numbers early in the month.

Yellow-skinned and possessing smooth, golden, pulpy flesh, the Honey Mango is aptly named due to its intense syrupy sweetness. It’s widely considered to be one of the very best of all the var-ious types of mango in terms of the richness and intensity of its flavour. However, prepping it can be a bit of a pain because, being quite soft when fully ripe and exceedingly succulent, it isn’t that easy to cut or slice in the traditional way, which is why it’s called a “sucking” mango - which is the most convenient way of consuming it when on-the-go. It’s therefore perhaps fair to say that fruit salads and platters are not exactly their forte, but juices, smoothies and purees (especially as a basis for a traditional Indian mint sauce) certainly are. Likely to appear in the market around week 3-4 from the Dominican Republic, they should be joined not long by after by Pakistani and Indian imports - among which will be a variety that the Indians themselves regard as “The King of Fruits”, namely the Alphonse.

Salads & Herbs

Arriving by mid-month, English new season Baby Red Kale (aka Red Salad Kale) has a milder, less bitter flavour than that of regular kale, but with a slightly peppery after-taste. The size and shape of its leaves are not dissimilar to roquette, with a delicate, yet firm texture and juicy, crunchy stalks. What sets it apart in purely visual terms is the contrast between each side of the leaf, inasmuch as the upper side is deep purple in colour, whilst the reverse is a darkish green, but with a network of deep purple veins. Although designed primarily as a salad ingredient, it is never-theless resilient enough to be steamed, wilted, sautéed and fried. Baby Kale is rich in calcium and iron, as well as vitamins A, C and K1.

New season English Curly Parsley and Coriander should start trickling in by around weeks 2 and 3.

Vegetables

Due to arrive in the first or second week of the month, home-grown Collard Greens are a broad-leafed, cabbage-like brassica that possess an earthy, slightly bitter flavour which has been likened to that of Kale. Sometimes sold in the UK as a variety of Spring Green, both the leaves and stems are edible and can usually be cooked simultaneously - so long as the stems are tender enough. They’re very much of a staple in the USA (especially the Southern states), as well as regions as di-verse as Brazil, Portugal, Zimbabwe and Kashmir.

One indicator that spring is just around the corner will be the arrival of Jersey Royal Potatoes, which, if they haven’t made an appearance already due to the relatively mild winter, should begin by week 1-2.

English Sea Kale should arrive in season by week 2-3, however, as with all sea vegetables, we strongly advise that you pre-order them at least an extra day in advance of when you’re actually going to use them. This is because we don’t keep any in stock and so we can’t guarantee they’ll be available at short notice. Anyway, back to the subject I began with, namely Sea Kale, which is a flowering, salt-water brassica whose succulent stems possess a flavour that’s very much like a cross between asparagus and celery, and whose edible flowering florets are not dissimilar in taste to that of sprouting broccoli. The leaves, too, are edible and if tender enough can be used as a salad green, or alternatively can be steamed or wilted very much like spinach. The less tender leaves, however, should be cooked more like you would spring greens.

New season French Corn-On-The-Cob should arrive around week 2-3, the news of which is par-ticularly welcome because it means that UK crops should start arriving no more than a couple of weeks thereafter.

English indoor (greenhouse) grown Asparagus is likely to start around week 3 of the month.

Week 2-3 should also herald the arrival in the market of new season Yellow Courgettes from both the Netherlands and Isreal, but be advised that they won’t be cheap - even by their own nor-mally costly standards.

Dutch Aubergines should be in season by about week 3 or 4. Eventually they’ll start to gradually replace end-of-season Spanish ones, which should hopefully prompt a fall in their price.

New season Spanish fresh Broad Beans will likely be available by week 3 or 4. Big in size and meaty in texture, they usually possess clean, bright, glossy and succulent pods – which is im-portant if you intend to cook them whole. That’s right, the pods are edible, as is illustrated by one classic Turkish recipe whereby you sauté some chopped onion in olive oil until softened, then re-duce to a low heat, add the whole, washed beans together with a few squeezes of lemon juice and a little sugar and salt, then leave to cook for about 15 minutes. Finally, add enough water to half-way cover the beans, then add some chopped dill leaves, cover and allow to gently simmer for an hour until the pods are very tender.

Miscellaneous

Wild Mushrooms available at various times throughout the month will likely include Chante-relle, Girolles, Morelles, Pied De Mouton and Trompette. 

English Nettles should be in season by mid-month.

March Fruit Bowl

MARCH can be one of the trickiest months for those compiling fruit bowls, displays and platters. Cape (South African) Peaches and Nectarines can often become scruffy and woolly-textured, whilst Apricots are likely to disappear altogether - if they haven’t already by the start of the month.

South American Cherries, if available at all, are likely to become very scarce and even more ex-pensive. By the end of the month even Plums can tend to become bland - although they should continue to look okay for a while.

Clementines and Satsumas will probably have finished, so the choice will usually be between Mineolas, Ortalinas (aka, Mandoras and Ortaniques) or Nadorcotts.

Apples should remain good and with a fair selection available. English Cox’s should still be far-ing well in terms of both quality and availability, but English Russets might by now have become a little scarcer.

The quality and availability of Pears depends very much on the weather in both the northern and southern hemispheres, which in recent years has proven unpredictable to say the least.

South American White Seedless Grapes should at some stage have replaced end-of-season South African crops, although early examples won’t be cheap and might not have had time to de-velop much sweetness.

Tropical & Exotic Fruits available in March will include Pomegranates, Kiwis, Persim-mon/Kaki/Sharon Fruit, Dragon Fruit, Grenadillo, Passionfruit, Tamarillo, Lychees, Rambutans and the occasional Kiwano and Babaco.

Dried Fruits, such as Dried Apricots, Dried Figs, Prunes and Dates can work well and add interest, and if your budget allows you may also consider incorporating Medjool (Toffee) Dates.

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