The Wellington Weekly
There've been quite a few new arrivals in the market since last we spoke, most of which herald the start of the seasonal transition from what is traditionally regarded as summer to winter produce.
During my last visit to the market a few days ago I was literally able to witness the unloading of the first of this year's English Mixed Winter Squashes. Each 10kg compilation might vary slightly depending on the availability of individual examples, but the selection pictured below is pretty much typical of what you might expect. They will probably include at some point the likes of Kabocha, Crunchkin, Harlequin, Celebration, Festival, Sunspot, Tablestar, Kemon and Blue Kuri. Purely as an arrangement in itself I’m sure you'll agree they present a rather impressive array of sizes, colours and profiles that would make an eye-catching counter display. However, each one has a culinary as well as decorative reason for being included in the mix, inasmuch as they are all edible and have been chosen to be enjoyed equally for just such a purpose. Another variety which is part of the mix, but also currently available to order separately, is the long yellow one that resembles a stretched honeydew melon and goes by the name of Spaghetti Squash (which can be seen featured at the centre of the ensemble in the picture). Its name alludes to the fact that when cooked the solid flesh separates into strands and achieves a spaghetti or noodle-like appearance and texture. Its one great advantage over many other types of squash is its ability to be cooked using a whole range of different methods, including baking, boiling, steaming, or indeed micro-waving.
There's a veritable superfluity of new season French Mixed-Coloured Heritage produce now arriving, including Carrots, Beetroot and Radish (pictured right). My camera has rarely seen so much action in a single night (at least in its professional capacity) in its attempts to capture the various arrangements of hues, shapes and textures on display. This presented me with somewhat of a dilemma because, given the limitations of physical space afforded me by this publication, I had to choose but one image to best represent the eye-catching splendour of them all.
Damsons (pictured left) are a grape-sized culinary Plum primarily used to make jams and preserves. But they’re good also for a range of desserts and ideal for creating sauces to accompany savoury dishes such as game and duck, pork or lamb. Grown in England and just in season, they’re now available to order - but be advised that their time is short, so they won’t be around for much more than a couple of weeks.
Another English Plum which has just arrived in the market is a variety called Opal. They are yellow-fleshed and technically described as being yellow-skinned with a purple blush, but the purple most often tends to be the dominant colour. They're quite small in stature and slightly ovoid in shape and, to be honest, are not always the most attractive of fruits - often appearing a bit blotchy and bruised. But, in terms of their flavour - oh my word, they're simply divine (which is not a description I often employ unless dressed in a silk dressing-gown and within the privacy of my boudoir). The term more-ish could have been invented exclusively for these little darlings, tasting as they do of vanilla-infused candyfloss. Superb!
Sadly, Flat Peaches are starting to show signs of deterioration and becoming scarcer as their season draws to a close.
European Cherries have essentially finished, leaving North American crops as the only real alternatives of any quality, but which are eye-wateringly expensive due to them having to be air-freighted.
There's a really good selection of Wild Mushrooms available at present, all of which are fresh, clean-looking and vibrant. These include Bulgarian Yellow Chanterelles and Pied De Mouton, Girolles from Belarus, and French Trompettes.
Fruit of the Week
Discovery Apple (UK)
The Market Alert
* Despite the cooler weather of late, customers are advised to remain vigilant with regards to new season English Carrots, whose skins might still be in the process of hardening and therefore not yet able to help withstand any sudden changes in temperature. Our advice, as always, is to avoid over-stocking and to only order enough for your immediate needs.
* As mentioned overleaf, Flat Peaches are becoming increasingly difficult in terms of both quality and availability.
* Apricots, too, are becoming more troublesome as their season draws to a close. Also mentioned overleaf, European Cherries have now all but disappeared. North American
Cherries are available, but their prices will be very high due to the additional costs of having to air-freight them due to the much greater distances involved.
* The cost of Lovers Potatoes remains high after an almost doubling in price last week. Another specialist chipping variety, namely Agria, is also proving problematic, but in this instance is mainly due to issues with their quality. As has been mentioned previously, all Large White Potato varieties have been in storage since they were harvested last autumn, which means that reserves are now running low (hence higher prices) and their quality is far from being at their best.
* Purple Sprouting Broccoli is still impossible to source and remains off-sale as a consequence.
* At the time of writing, White Asparagus is unavailable in the market. If any does make an appearance in the meantime, its price is likely to be so high as to make it too prohibitive for even the most discerning of our customers.
* New season Brown Onions are still a bit scruffy looking, and it remains likely that you'll encounter the odd soft one here or there.
* At the time of writing, Baby Globe Artichokes are proving difficult to find in the market.
* Red Onions are still experiencing market shortages at present.
* The price of South African Oranges remains high.
* Lemons are still hard work, and therefore remain no less expensive.
* English Outdoor Rhubarb is becoming scarcer by the week and the quality of what might be available cannot be guaranteed.