M A R C H - A P R I L
The return for many people will coincide with one of the best periods of the year in terms of British grown produce.
Although officially the season starts on St. George’s Day (23rd April), UK Asparagus should be available early April. It is full of nutrition and toxin fighting properties and can aid digestion and help to reduce blood pressure, but at the end of the day it is its delicious flavour which scores highest.
It is grown in Norfolk at Portwood Farm in Norfolk, where perfect soil and years of experience make it the best tasting available in our opinion. The season usually ends in June so don’t hang about!
What better accompaniment to asparagus than another unique UK grown item - Jersey Royals.
Like British asparagus, they too have a unique flavour. The island’s tidal flows and micro climate help to create a very distinctive taste. The washed up seaweed (vraic) is used as natural fertilizer and they are harvested by hand on the sun-facing slopes, called côtils.
At the beginning of the season, they are often more expensive, but tend to ease price-wise as the season progresses through to the Summer months and are available in different sizes – the larger ‘Ware’, medium-sized ‘Mids’ and the tiny ‘Chats’.
Also available right now is Wild Garlic, which you can find growing throughout the UK at this time of year. So many more people have been out walking the countryside in recent weeks, we just hope there is still plenty left or hopefully most people don’t pick it, as they don’t know what it is!
It has a very subtle flavour and nowhere near as powerful as garlic and should be treated in a similar way to baby spinach. It can be used for salads, pesto, soups and is perfect with seafood and fish dishes. Best eaten in early Spring, as once the plant starts to produce white flowers, which are also edible, the leaves tend to become more bitter in flavour.
Spring Greens are a timely addition and a few UK grown Cauliflowers have started to appear again. Broccoli remains imported until May, along with most salads. Although often susceptible to the UK weather variations, delicious British Purple Broccoli is available now.
Also, UK grown – New Potatoes, King Edward/Desiree/Maris Piper Potatoes, Jackets,
Cucumbers, Swede, Beetroot, Kale, White Cabbage, Pak Choi, Chinese Cabbage,
Celeriac, Parsnips, Shallots, Gala Apples (will end soon), Bramley Apples, Rhubarb, Onions, Chantenay Carrots, Carrots (UK & France), Turnips, Watercress, Peashoots, Edible
Flowers, Leeks (soon), Beansprouts, Microherbs and
Heritage Tomatoes (April/May).
(There will be a detailed update to follow next month regarding British Tomatoes)
Since Brexit, there has been many changes to the way produce arrives into the UK, mostly in terms of port fees and a lot more administration necessary. Air-freighted items have been impacted significantly, as many larger hauliers are yet to resume direct flights to the UK until demand increases, but this should improve as the weeks go by. We should also see an increase in the number of shipments from Rungis and Milan, as confidence and volumes in the UK both grow.
Despite the above logistical and demand issues, there has been some excellent quality produce available.
Some great produce arriving from Italy boasting some stunning colours, including
Tardivo [left], and Trevise [below] which are basically heirloom varieties of the radicchio family. Also, some fantastic Globe Artichokes, Baby
Artichokes and not to be outdone on colour, these beautiful Grelots (Onions) below. Although the UK season is only a few weeks away, these
San Marzano Tomatoes (below)are sweet and bursting with flavour.
Please allow some extra time for these items to arrive, which will speed up as we get into April/May when demand increases.
Peppers, Courgettes, Aubergines and most Tomatoes are from Europe currently, as is Broccoli, which usually switches to UK-grown in May.
Lettuces, such as Little Gem, Cos/Romaine, Iceberg are Spanish currently, which will switch to British grown around late May. Other salad heads such as Lollo Rossa, Lollo Biondi and Oakleaf are from France currently, as is this stunning Lautrec Garlic (left). Also from France are Curly Endive, Mache, Mixed Heirloom Tomatoes, Rainbow Radish and Roscoff Onions.
Until the UK grown becomes available again, both Savoy Cabbage and Hispee/Pointed Cabbage are from Portugal.
Mushrooms including Portobello, Shiitake, Chestnut, King Oyster, Enoki and Oyster all remain steady availability-wise and although demand has been lower than usual, wild mushrooms such as Girolles and Chanterelles should be fine.
There has been some delicious Mangoes lately, including the ‘Kent’ variety (below) - tree-ripened from Peru. In the next week or so, we should also see the arrival of these Alphonso Mangoes (left) from India, which are among the best fruit available. It has been said that it combines flavours of many other fruits including peach, nectarine, melon, mango, citrus fruits, plus a hint of honey – all in a silky, buttery flesh. Usually around until June.
We have had some huge bright red Pomegranates from Turkey (above) weighing in at almost a kilo each! Cherries from Chile (below) have been tastier than expected and not too expensive either. There is stonefruit available from South Africa, including Peaches, Nectarines and Apricots.
With regard to apples, although there are still plenty of UK Gala available, these will come to an end soon and all apples will be imported, including Granny Smith (France), Red Delicious (Italy), Golden Delicious (France), Pink Lady (South Africa) and Braeburn (S. America). Mouneyrac varieties such as Gold Rush, Fuji and Royal Gala continue to arrive from France.
Red Plums have at last started to come through in larger quantities and better prices from South Africa. Spanish Satsumas/Nadorcotts (easy peelers) have been excellent quality and should continue. Blood Oranges are still around now but will start to fall away later shortly.
Grapes have been very good quality from both South Africa and Chile/South America, as have Pineapples (Cost Rica). Most melons are from Brazil/Costa Rica, including Watermelons, Galia, Cantaloupe and Galia. Other exotics, including Papaya, Dragonfruit, Pitahaya, Mangosteen, Prickly Pears, Passionfruit, Grenadilla and these beautiful Custard Apples (Cherimoya)