Borlotti Beans, Marrows & Honey Mangos
After one of the soggiest Junes on record, the Met Office last week announced that the heatwave which parts of continental Europe have been experiencing over the last couple of weeks is likely to reach our shores before too long (if it hasn’t already by the time you read this). It’s reckoned that this July is set to be the hottest in 60 years, with temperatures predicted to reach as high as a brain-sizzling 40 degrees. Now, it’s not our intention to unduly spread panic and alarm, but, after consulting with our buyers, it’s been agreed that it would be remiss of us not to at least mention that prolonged periods of extremely hot weather are likely to affect the availability, quality and ultimate price of certain types of home-grown produce, the most obvious example being outdoor-grown Salad Leaves. I don’t want to speculate too far ahead, so I’ll conclude by saying that you will be informed of any further developments once we become aware of them.
Similar in shape and dimension to the Runner Bean (featured last week), the shell of the Borlotti Bean possesses a milky-white and cranberry coloured mottling which are, unlike the aforementioned Runner, inedible. The beans themselves are of a similar pattern and colour as the shell which encases them and have a nutty flavour and creamy texture. Widely used in both Italian and Portuguese cuisine, where they are something of a staple. The standard method of cooking them requires placing them in a pan of cold water and bringing them to the boil, at which point they should be simmered for between 25-35 minutes, or until tender yet still firm. The ones I encountered were in fact Italian, but I have been informed that English ones have crept into the market and are said to be very good.
I briefly mentioned last week the arrival of English new season Marrows, but was prevented from saying much more about them due to lack of space. I’d like therefore to remedy this by not only telling you that they’re roughly 35cm or so in length, and about 10cm in diameter, but by also including a nice photograph to boot. Once a fairly popular veg in the UK, Marrow started to fall out of favour sometime in the mid 1960s as the rise in demand for the immature version of the same vegetable, the Courgette, began to grow. The record for the world’s largest marrow is currently held by William Gibbs of Leicestershire, who managed to produce one which weighed in at a whopping 128lbs/58kg.
After a hiatus of several weeks, English Romanesco is now back in the market – but be advised, I only saw a relatively few number of boxes, so they’re far from being back to full swing. They were, however, of good, bright colouring and their peaked florets were well formed and blemish-free.
There are both Italian Baby Purple and Baby White Aubergines currently in the market, with the white ones being particularly worthy of note due to their colour and sheen (not to mention their shape) making them almost indistinguishable from a boiled egg that’s had the shell removed.
Pakistani Honey Mangos arrived in the market last week. Small enough to fit between the closed palms of both hands without leaving much of a gap, they’re very similar indeed (some would say identical) to perhaps the more widely know Indian Alphonse Mangos. Yellow skinned and golden-fleshed, both are distinguished by being extremely soft when ripe - so soft, in fact that the best way to eat them is straight out of the skin (hence their alternative moniker being Sucking Mangos).
English Cherries are now in the market and my initial impressions of them are that they’re perfectly pleasant enough, but whose flavour has yet to mature sufficiently to withstand comparison with our current Spanish offerings.
Fruit of the Week
Black Splendor Plums
Scorchio!!! Warm Weather Alert
Please refer to the first paragraph overleaf regarding predictions of the hottest July in 60 years, with temperatures predicted to reach 40°C.
A nationwide transport strike in Costa Rica is causing shortages of their home-grown Bananas and Pineapples.
At the time of writing, Heritage Tomatoes are in short supply.
The market price of Premium (Small Graded) Sweet Potatoes has almost doubled in the last week or so.
Pre-packed Baby Spinach is in short supply, which is likely due to June’s heavy rainfall.
As mentioned last week, the market price of Strawberries is likely to be high during Wimbledon Fortnight.
Once again it has to be mentioned that the deterioration of English Asparagus is becoming increasingly apparent and customers are therefore advised to consider Peruvian and Mexican alternative.
Small and Medium Paw-Paw are continuing to experience shortages in the market.
The market price of both Belgian and French Leeks remains quite high.
The market price of Peeled Garlic, too, continues to command high prices.
The market price of both Round and Banana Shallots remains expensive.
Ongoing Alert: The deterioration in the quality of White Washed Ware Potatoes remains an issue as reserves which have been held in storage since last autumn continue to deplete.
The market price of both Red Cabbage and White Cabbage remains high.
Red Chillies remain very, very expensive.
The availability of both Ruby and Yellow Grapefruit remains tight and prices high as a consequence.