The Wellington Weekly
I think the primary (though not exclusive) theme for this week’s offering should be the colour PURPLE - which, in fact, came about entirely by chance and without any forethought whatsoever. Read on and all will be revealed …...
With the advent of April and with it the start of the UK and European seasons, sales of Asparagus inevitably start to increase - and not just steadily, but quite drastically. Ironically, though, the asparagus that the majority of our customers will be getting (at least until the price of home-grown examples start to decline) are the Peruvian imports that have been available throughout year but which hardly anyone will consider going anywhere near until now. Anyway, the latest news is that English Purple Asparagus has arrived to join the regular English green asparagus I mentioned last week as having just arrived. And although, as was also mentioned last week, the English grass will initially be very dear, the welcome consequence of its appearance on the scene means that the price of the aforementioned Peruvian imports are likely to take quite a tumble over the next couple of weeks.
English new season Spring Greens have now arrived - good news for those of you who’ve endured the best part of the last couple of months, since the end of the old season, being regularly disappointed due to their lack of availability. Those I encountered during my last visit to the market a mere couple of days ago were lush, verdant and lively, and I have no hesitation in recommending them. Sadly, though, Cavalo Nero (Black Cabbage) is now out of season and currently off-sale.
Spanish new season Marrows have started to trickle in. Measuring roughly 40cm in length and quite slender (which is meant as a positive attribute that adds to their attractiveness), they have a good, substantial feel about them and possess glossy green skins with nicely defined striations.
On balance, if you have to make the choice between Tenderstem and Purple Sprouting Broccoli, our advice would be to opt for the latter. Not only is it home-grown (the majority of Tenderstem, I think I’m right in saying, is currently imported) and of better quality, but it’s also more readily available and likely to be cheaper. But there is in fact a further choice to be had with regard sprouting varieties of broccoli, namely, Yellow Sprouting Broccoli. And when I say yellow, I mean yellow, and not some insipid shade of yellowish-green - as the picture below will testify.
Italian Purple Cauliflowers are now in season; what’s more, the particular ones I saw recently were massive - the biggest I think I’d ever witnessed, in fact.
What makes Purple Sweet Potato purple?, is a question I’m sure you’ve often asked yourself many times. You may have even resorted to asking complete strangers at bus stops or on the train and been told to ‘’clear off and leave me alone you nutter’’ as a consequence of this unsolicited intrusion. Well, I’m about to tell you the answer, safe in the assurance of there being no possible danger of receiving a blow to the bonce or some softer part of your anatomy from an irate, umbrella-wielding member of the general public. Purple sweet potatoes derive their colour from high levels of an antioxidant called anthocyanin. In fact, they contain as much as three times the amount of anthocyanin as blueberries. Is this a good thing? The short answer is yes, this is a good thing. They’ve been described as having a rich, almost ‘winey’ flavour, and are denser and drier than orange sweet potatoes. The key to getting the best from them is to bake them at around 175°C/Gas 4 for between 90-120min, depending on size, after which time they become pleasantly moist and sweet. They can be used in many of the same ways as other sweet potato varieties, but with their striking hue adding a truly alternative colourful dimension.
English Crooked Cucumbers are all over the market. Sold loose by weight, they are mostly on the small side and quite skinny and, it has to be said, more misshapen than Richard III’s coat hanger and often resembling the horn of an aged ram. They are, though, crisp, succulent and, I suppose one could argue, more ‘’natural’’ tasting and flavoursome than the larger and straighter shrink-wrapped variety most of us are used to. They’re ideal for pickling, or could be used to make relish, or as a basis for all types of salsas and dips, or added to yogurt to create tzatziki, or perhaps just a simple smoothie ingredient. What I’m trying to convey is that you could utilise them in any dish in which you can include cucumber but that doesn’t rely on it’s eye-appeal.
Wild Mushrooms available at the time of writing are Pied de Mouton, which are Portuguese, and Morels, which are from Turkey. Judging by appearances alone, they both seem to be of exceptionally high quality.