‘A’ is for April and asparagus – the main arrival this month. Other stars include tomatoes, wild garlic, rhubarb and Jersey Royals.
It’s early days for British-grown asparagus, so prices are a little high. The plant grows fast in warm temperatures - several inches per day. At this early stage in the season, polytunnels are used to trap the heat. Find out more here about this classic crop from my visit to one of the UK’s leading growers. Continental asparagus is also available, including white and purple.
On Buyer’s Walk, another highlight is a cascade of tomatoes in myriad shapes and colours. Some are British, such as early harvests from Nutbourne Nursery in Sussex (more info here). But most are imports, such as the unusual Pachino from Sicily or bulk greenhouse crops from Dutch and Belgian growers.
Other homegrown highlights are wild garlic, rhubarb and Jersey Royal potatoes. At the start of April, both forced rhubarb and outdoor rhubarb are available, but the former is now tailing off.
As for veg, Jersey Royal potatoes are available in chat, mids and ware sizes. Jerusalem artichokes are another good buy. Purple sprouting, curly kale, cabbages, leeks and celeriac are other good calls.
Foraged delicacies include cherry blossom, nettles and wild sea aster.
Continental specialties include cime di rapa, agretti, artichokes, borage, chervil root, basil, crosnes, fennel, peas, broad beans and kohl rabi. Check out these stunning green and yellow round courgettes from French Garden in the second pic below.
One unusual sight are wild hops from Italy, also known as Bruscandoli – here modeled at European Salad Company. Below is parsley pulled with the roots intact.
For fruit, note that the citrus bonanza is coming to an end. Leafy lemons are still available. Clementines are available but short and pricey. “You’ve had the best of the them now,” says Michael at H G Walker, whose crops are now from Morocco rather than Spain. Blood oranges are not as plentiful as last month.
On a more positive note, Spanish strawberries and blueberries are a good buy – cheap and plentiful. France is also sending the classy Garuiguette strawberry.
These quince are Turkish, from where the first flushes of Morel mushrooms are also picked.
On the exotic front, there are figs from various corners of the world. The specimens on the left are from Brazil and sold by H G Walker; on the right from South Africa and courtesy of Premier Exotics.
Melons hail from Central America. There are grapes and stone fruit from South Africa, such these plums, nectarines and peaches. But make sure to taste first as some are hard as bullets.
Note that Koppertcress in The Netherlands, purveyors of microgreens and unusual edibles, have recently revamped their packaging. Each product has its own colour palette, such as green for acidity or orange for umami.
See you in May for more marvels from the Market.