The Wellington Weekly
I think it’s because it was perhaps the first proper exotic fruit I ever tasted and enjoyed that Physalis has ever since occupied a special place in my fruity affections. These days they’re a lot more commonplace than they once were, so it’s perhaps too easy to become somewhat blasé regarding just how remarkable they are. Enshrouded within a papery enclosure comprising a couple of overlapping, slightly translucent, leaf-like petals, these orange-coloured berries are similar in shape and dimension to cherry or cocktail tomatoes. Their internal structure, too, is not unlike that of a tomato - although their edible seeds are a bit harder. Their flavour I can best describe as quite intense and reminiscent of bitter orange and burnt sugar. Ideal for fruit platters or garnishes, as well as the main component in a tart or cheesecake, they’re sold in punnets of 100g that will yield approximately 20 in number - which, when one considers their relatively modest price, makes them one of the most cost-effective exotics available.
At first glance, the Nispero (aka Loquat or Medlar) could be mistaken for a smooth-skinned, rather dishevelled, smallish Apricot. Originating in China, but cultivated and consumed extensively in both Spain (which is Europe’s biggest grower) and Turkey (which is where the ones I recently encountered in the market came from), they are now just in season. Possessing soft, creamy yellow flesh with either two of four seeds at its centre, its flavour contains both sweet and sour elements and has been described as being a combination of citrus, peach and mango. As is obvious from the picture below, they are rather rustic looking (which is a polite way of saying that they’re scruffy), but this is quite normal and shouldn’t deter you from giving them a try.
English Outdoor Rhubarb is now plentiful.
Home-grown Cucumbers have not long arrived in season and, although not yet firmly established, are becoming more of a presence in the market. English Spring Onions should be appearing before too long. However, the arrival of English Salad Leaves is, this year, expected to be 2-3 weeks late due to frost.
The availability of French Heritage Tomatoes is currently very healthy, and prices should be quite reasonable as a consequence.
I know I’ve spoken about English Asparagus for the last couple of weeks, but I think that such attention is warranted. This is due to the fact that this is one of those crops for which the UK has a reputation for producing among the very finest examples. Anyway, I’d firstly, like to remind you that the official start of the English Asparagus Season commences on St George’s Day, April 23. Secondly, I want to make you aware that English crops are already beginning to occupy a substantial chunk of market space. This is an indication of bumper yields and, consequently, reasonable prices fairly early on, which increases the likelihood that home-grown ‘’grass’’ might very well become our standard offering before too long.
I have to confess to having committed something of a journalistic faux pas last week by announcing the demise of Cavalo Nero (Black Cabbage). I erroneously declared that its season had finished, when in fact it was merely (and, as it transpired, only temporarily) in short supply. The mistake I made was to give too much credence to information furnished by just one source, when I should have tested the veracity of such a claim by seeking further verification. My sincere apologies for not doing so. The good news is, therefore, that it’s now back on sale and, at the time of writing, readily available.
English Rainbow Chard is expected quite soon.
I mentioned last week how impressed I was by new season Spanish Marrow. I had wanted to include a photo, but the lighting in the market hall where they were displayed wasn’t great at the time, On my last visit, however, I was able to capture them in all their glory.
At this time of year it’s easy to allow oneself to be swept away by the joys of spring, and in the process neglect to mention the types of veg often thought of as falling within the category of winter produce, English Savoy Cabbage, for example, is exceptionally good at present, so, too are Cauliflower, Parsnip, Turnip and Swede, all of which are highly recommended.