The Wellington Weekly
IT seems that no sooner did the switch from end-of-season Spanish to new season Dutch Strawberries actually take place, than we find ourselves preparing for yet another switch - this time from Dutch to English. Let me make it clear, though, that this is the latest news I have based on what our buyer has informed me she’s intending to do at the time of this report being compiled and written. If and when the move to domestically grown crops does occur it will mean yet another change in punnet size from 500g down to 400g, which is traditionally the capacity favoured by UK growers and is why, as I’ve mentioned in the past, we sell our strawberries by weight - namely, as a means to overcome such variations in punnet size. Anyway, the upshot is that many of you, I’m sure, will be cock-a-hoop at the prospect of finally being able to sample some home-grown examples of what are widely regarded as one of this nation’s greatest agricultural assets.
Since last we spoke, Spanish Cherries are now making their presence more strongly felt, as increasing numbers start to trickle into the market. Spanish cherries always seem to have strong, deep colouring from quite early in the season, and these are no exception. However, this shouldn’t be taken as an indication as to the strength of their flavour, because they’ve still got perhaps another week or two until they start to reach their full potential. Nevertheless, I’ve been reliably assured that they will have been made available for sale by the time you read this. However, as always with new season produce, to avoid being overcome by hot flushes, cold sweats and palpitations when presented with your invoice, please find out the price before putting them on your menus.
Flat Peaches have now arrived in the market from Spain to join the growing numbers of Round Peaches, Nectarines and Apricots now available. The prices of all those mentioned are still a bit steep, but should start to become cheaper with each week’s passing - and should fall considerably once they come up against competition from the likes of French and, perhaps, Italian imports, whose arrivals shouldn’t be too far off.
New season Spanish Watermelon are just starting to arrive in the market, Their flavour has been described as not overly sweet, but pleasantly refreshing - which isn’t a bad initial verdict on these early examples, whose flavour is likely to develop further over a relatively short period of time.
Red Sag isn’t, as the name suggests, a medical complaint suffered by middle-aged men of a certain disposition, but rather an alternative appellation given to Lal Sag/Laal Sag, which itself is a common term used throughout the Indian subcontinent for what we call Red Amaranth. Beautiful and bold, its texture and flavour is similar to spinach (but not as smooth or glossy, and perhaps slightly more bitter and earthier) and can be prepared and cooked in the same manner (examples of which methods I won’t insult you by listing here). But, as you can see for yourselves from the accompanying photo, its bold and beautiful colouring would maybe best be preserved by gently wilting or stir-frying.
What do you imagine I was doing at half-past midnight last Wednesday morning? No, not that! I was in fact standing over a boiling pan of Kentish New Season Mid Potatoes. Such is my dedication to the cause, I felt it my duty to find out for myself how long they took to cook and what they tasted like once they were, so I could then pass what I had gleaned from the experience to yourselves, dear customers. Well, the upshot is that they took around 12 minutes to boil and possessed a faintly earthy, slightly chest-nutty flavour which I found really appealing. Their texture was mid-way between waxy and kind of crumbly, which would make them ideal for roasting or boiled and lightly crushed and served with butter and garlic.
New-ish season English Coriander looks superb, and the strength of its piquancy is such that it pervades the air around it to a distance of at least a two feet (that’s 60cm to those too young to know what an imperial foot is).
After having experienced a few quality issues in recent weeks which caused us to switch to Mexican imports, we have now reverted once more to supplying English Spring Onions.
It’s anticipated that this week, or shortly thereafter, should see the arrival of English Rainbow Chard.
The Market Alert
Apples continue to be a cause for concern in terms of both availability and price. At the time of writing, Braeburns remain impossible to source. Furthermore, Bramley Cooking Apples now appear to be getting scarcer.
Onions remain problematic for the time being, but the situation should hopefully soon start to improve with the first of the new season Spanish imports now beginning to arrive.
As mentioned last week, Curly Kale is prone to ‘’go-off’’ very quickly if the weather is too warm, which results in the leaves turning yellow in a matter of just a few hours. At the time of writing, temperatures overall seem to have cooled, but this could soon change, so please remain mindful of our advice.
Both Lemons and Limes are still expensive.
There’s still no sign of English Runner Beans, which means that the only possible alternative remains those from South African. As mentioned last week, the problem with the imported ones is that they arrive pre-packed, which causes them to sweat and ultimately become rotten very quickly. Our advice is to either buy frozen ones or to entirely avoid them until new season English fresh ones arrive, which hopefully won’t be too far off.
The market availability of Celery appears to be a bit tight at present.
Supplies of Purple Sprouting Broccoli seem to have dried-up. You should perhaps consider using Tenderstem Broccoli instead.
At the time of writing, the market availability of Micro Garlic Chives is very low.
Romanesco is currently impossible to find anywhere.
The market price of Pre-Peeled Garlic has gone through the roof over the last week or so.
As mentioned overleaf, the quality of English Spring Onions (which had been a cause for concern in recent weeks, prompting a move to imported ones) has now improved sufficiently to justify putting them back on sale.
Fruit of the Week
Cox’s Orange Pippin Apple