The Wellington Weekly
With Christmas quickly becoming a dim and distant memory, the market seems at last to be returning to some semblance of normality - whatever that means.
Home-grown Savoy Cabbage is dark, crinkly and frim, yet squeakily succulent. I’s also both large and compact, therefore making it high-yielding. However, demand for January King Cabbage - which, as its name suggest, is at its peak just now, is somewhat disappointing. January King, let me remind you, is a winter variant of Savoy and differs from it inasmuch as it has a more pronounced dome and shinier, smoother and slightly less crinkly leaves. Also, its colouring is less uniformly green and possesses in addition a combination of pale purple, deeper purple and almost blue. I think perhaps the reason it’s not being more widely used is due to the fact that traditionally the availability of its closest rival, the aforementioned Savoy, would start to dwindle round about December time and retire to the wings, leaving January King to take centre stage. But with Savoy still going strong, the King is left feeling somewhat neglected - which is a shame, because, as I’ve said before, it really is worthy of such a regal epithet. One more cabbage variety doing really well at present and which I’d like to briefly mention is Portuguese Hispi (the pointy-headed one sometimes referred to as ‘’sweetheart’’ cabbage. Possessing pale green leaves packed tightly together around its central core to form a sort of conical profile, its texture and flavour is very much akin to spring greens and therefore an ideal option for those who prefer a milder, less intense flavour. Brussels Tops are still around, but the availability of Brussels themselves is dwindling.
English Cauliflower is still amazing, being of generous proportions, firm, bright and mostly blemish-free. On my last visit to the market a couple of days ago I also encountered some Spanish Coloured Cauliflower - Orange and Purple to be precise. Coloured Cauliflower can often be a bit patchy or lacking in vibrancy, but I must say that the colours exhibited by these examples were of even distribution and full of vitality. Spanish Romanesco (the one that looks like a green cauliflower but with Christmas-tree-like peaked florets) are still available and they, too, possess nice, even colouring and are of a goodly size to boot.
I’ve always been something of an advocate of French Heirloom Tomatoes as being arguably the best of a pretty select bunch. I must concede, though, that I was very taken aback by the rather impressive examples of the Spanish tomato growers art which appear to be arriving in the market in ever greater numbers. Whereas the French selections tend to offer a full range of sizes, those on offer from Spain appear to concentrate on the larger, more beefsteak-type varieties. Unfortunately, one drawback with the Spanish offerings is that, unlike those of the French, they don’t provide a colour leaflet giving pictures and names of what’s included (at least I couldn’t find one), and, to be honest, most of them were a mystery to me. Therefore you’ll have to content yourselves with the photo I’ve provided to determine whether or not you find them as transfixing as I did. Anyway, they’re available in 3kg straw-lined wooden crates, and please specify when placing your order that you require the Spanish selection.
Let me make if clear from the outset that they will cost an absolute fortune - firstly because they’re wild (and as you know, anything prefixed with the adjective ‘’wild’’ isn’t going to be cheap), and secondly because they’re imported from the USA. But we here at the veg factory have a duty not only to our grass-roots, ‘’salt-of-the-earth’’, ‘’meat-and-two-veg’’ or ‘’chips-with-everything’’ clientele, but also to those involved at the fine-dining end of the spectrum who’ve got that bit more cash to flash. I’m referring to Trompette Mushrooms (pictured). What’s more, to add insult to injury, we can only accept minimum orders for them of 500g. They are, though, very good indeed.
There are some lovely Israeli Courgette Flowers just arrived in the market, which are smaller and more delicate than their Dutch counterparts and are available in packs of two.