The Wellington Weekly
Firstly, let me give you all fair warning with a reminder that next Monday, May 28, is a Bank Holiday and that there will be no deliveries on that day. The office will therefore be closed on Sunday 27, but phone lines will open again from 3pm Bank Holiday Monday to receive live orders for delivery on Tuesday 29. Until that time, there will, of course, be an automated answering service in operation on which you can leave your orders if you’ve got better things to do on a bank holiday other than wait for our office to open.
Cima di Rapa is fairly abundant at present. Also known variously as Rapini, Friarelli and Broccoli Rabe, it is a green-budded, heritage variety of Sprouting Broccoli with broad, ragged leaves and tender, succulent stems - all of which are edible. Particularly associated with Italian and Portuguese cuisines, it possesses a strong, slightly bitter flavour and was a perennial favourite at London’s River Café, where it was used extensively in pastas and soups. Delicious also briefly steamed prior to stir-frying together with garlic, anchovies, chilli and lemon and served with a scattering of pine nuts and a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan.
There’s no sign as yet of new season English Broccoli, but is expected quite soon. New season English Cavalo Nero (Black Cabbage) has started, but it’s not quite as dark or crinkly as our current Spanish imports, so we won’t be switching to them for the time being. Curly Kale doesn’t particularly like the warmer weather we’ve been lately experiencing, which is why it’s not faring too well at present and is turning a pale yellow in a matter of a few hours as a consequence. Our advice therefore is to avoid it if at all possible.
The English Asparagus season is now roughly half-way through its course (the official end being midsummer’s day, which this year falls on June 23). Consequently, there’s a lot of it out there, and prices are very reasonable to boot. A new arrival I encountered on my last visit to the market a few days ago was Sprue Asparagus, which are the ‘’thinnings’’, or first pickings, of the asparagus bed. When asparagus starts to grow it needs to be ‘’thinned’’ - in other words, to have some of the plants removed to prevent over-crowding and thereby allowing the others to better flourish. Sprue asparagus is a lot more slender than regular asparagus (perhaps 1/3 of its girth, in fact). Traditionally, it was cheaper than its thicker counterpart because it was thought to be less flavoursome. However, as the trend for smaller, slimmer, more delicate and more compact veg grew, so did the price of Sprue (there’s a rhyme in there somewhere). Being so slim and so very tender, it requires very little cooking. Used in an omelette, for example (which, B-T-W, is, O-M-G, literally T-D-F), it only needs to be warmed-through with the eggs without having to part-cook it beforehand.
Last week saw the welcome arrival of Cornish Earlies, a variety of new season Mid Potato harvested by hand and sent to market with the mud still attached. Their skin is flaky and the flesh is of a buttery hue with a creamy texture. Their flavour differs from that of their closest rival, Jersey Royals, inasmuch as that (in my opinion, at least) it is sweeter, nuttier and less ’’earthy’’. I have no hesitation in recommending these truly wondrous spuds, but should nevertheless advise you that they won’t be cheap. Another new season potato variety just arrived are Kentish New Mids, but I’ve yet to sample them, so will reserve my judgement until next week.
We have now switched to new season English Cos Lettuce. English Gem and Iceberg Lettuces should be available soon, and Lollorosso and Lollobiondi not long after that.
We had last week planned to switch from Spanish to Dutch and Belgian Strawberries, but it was decided to stick with the former whilst they were still good and of a reasonable price. This wasn’t perhaps such a big deal in itself, but it did lead to some confusion, because, you see, Spanish are available in 250g punnets, whereas the others come in 500g punnets. The upshot is that those customers who requested strawberries by the punnet might have received more or less than they bargained for. We unreservedly offer our apologies if this was the case. At the time of writing we are still using the Spanish, but by the time you read this, the switch may have already occurred. If this is the case, our order-takers will endeavour to advise you accordingly.