The Wellington Weekly
Early varieties of English-grown Apples tend to be distinguished by their yellow or pale-green skins and intense crimson blush, crisp texture and slightly sharp taste. Discovery Apples are invariably the first arrivals to appear in significant volume and, true to form, have been available now for about a fortnight. It's then usually a toss-up between two other cultivars as to which will be the next to appear, namely Early Windsor or Katy. This year it happens to be the Windsor's turn to follow on the heels of Discovery. You can infer from my earlier comments that Early Windsor share many of the same characteristics as Discovery - though slightly smaller and rounder in stature. Originally developed in Germany during the 1930s under the name Alkmene, they’re a cross between Cox’s Orange Pippin and a variety called Duchess of Oldenberg. They're juicy, robust and quite acidic, but with sweet, aromatic skins whose fragrance in vaguely reminiscent of strawberry.
Notwithstanding the almost entire devastation of last season's crops, the prospects appear good that by the time you read this French new season Royal Gala Apples will have started to trickle-in. Furthermore, it's around this time also that French Granny Smiths, and perhaps even Italian Red Delicious, begin to make an appearance.
On my last visit to the market a couple of day’s ago, I encountered some new season examples of what is arguably the most celebrated of all the fig varieties, namely the Turkish Brown Fig. Large, plump, bottom-heavy and bulbous, their flesh is sweet and succulent and possesses a flavour I can best describe as evoking similarities with caramelised brown sugar infused with vanilla essence. Their skins are quite thin and tender and not in the least bitter-tasting, so when the fig is very ripe and the skin can only just barely contain the flesh and prevent it from bursting through, it can be easily consumed along with the rest of the fruit.
I’m never quite sure if it’s worth my while mentioning each year the arrival in the market of Prickly Pear because, to be honest, it will only ever have very limited appeal to a minority of customers. But, as you by now may well be aware, we reckon it’s a good thing to feature the occasional exotic offering, if only to serve as a reminder that we are about a lot more than apples and pears, cabbages and spuds. Anyway, the prickly pear is the flowering fruit of the cactus plant - hence its other common names being Cactus Fruit and Cactus Fig. With a shape similar to mango, they are usually red or yellow-skinned and possess flesh of the same colour, dotted throughout with hard black edible seeds. With a flavour not dissimilar to watermelon and a texture not unlike pear, but slightly spongier, prickly pear is a highly nutritious fruit which contains low levels of saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. A 250g serving has just 61 calories but supplies 21% of the recommended daily allowance of dietary fibre, 35% of vitamin C, and 32% of magnesium. Besides all that, they make an interesting and delicious addition to a fruit salad or platter, as well being ideal for juices and smoothies.
Apricots are still available, but becoming increasingly difficult - as well as more expensive - as their presence starts to dwindle. The likelihood is that they won't survive much beyond the end of this month, or maybe early September at a stretch.
In the wake of the arrival (mentioned last week) of English Mixed Squashes, I can announce this week that Onion Squash is now available to order separately. This means that, together with Spaghetti Squash (also mentioned last time) and Crown Prince (which has been mentioned many, many times) there is now beginning to emerge what will become a steady succession of individual varieties over the coming couple of weeks from which you can pick and choose for yourselves. I will, of course, keep you further informed as and when they do arrive. In the meantime, Onion Squash is so named because of its similarity in shape to an onion, is bright orange in colour and can vary in weight from around 600g to over a kilo. The flesh is a slightly paler shade of orange than the skin, is quite soft and, in common with all other squashes, encloses a seeded inner cavity. Their texture and flavour is similar to Butternut, and are likewise best cooked by halving and de-seeding them, then roasting with the skin on.
English Purple Sprouting Broccoli is just starting to come back on stream after a few months during which it's been unobtainable. However, I only saw evidence of a couple of small crates in the entire market, Hopefully, though, it will have established more of a presence by the time you read this.