There’s a positive side to the recent fruit and veg crisis – a renewed appreciation of British produce.
Recent news headlines featured price hikes and bare supermarket shelves. Atrocious weather in Southern Europe provoked shortages of everyday ingredients, with some suppliers even airfreighting Iceberg lettuce from the USA.
This situation opens our eyes to fragilities of our food system. When working smoothly, consumers barely question the logistical web which brings us produce twelve months of the year.
On the market, prices are stable for British ingredients. Pick of the crop is Yorkshire forced rhubarb. Here are photos of its gorgeous colour and their forcing sheds – the latter on the phone of Matt Mole from P&I who had just paid one of their suppliers a visit. (For more info on the unique growing process, see our Product Profile.)
Other British highlights include the brassicas, such as cabbages (Savoy; January King), kales, purple sprouting and caulis, including Romanesco in the first picture below. The second is of the new kid on the block: flower sprouts (a.k.a. kalettes), pictured at S Thorogood. Note that sprouts and tops are winding down.
All the roots are also on good form. These include parsnips, swede, celeriac and Jerusalem artichokes. Leeks in particular have thrived in the recent cold.
The first Jersey Royals are also here at suppliers such as P&I. This is a greenhouse crop. “It was meant to be the Christmas crop but it was too cold in Jersey," explains Matt. Prices are high before the outdoor crops begins in a month or so.
English apples and pears are still eating well. Note that Comice is the best choice of pear. Braeburn and Cox are the best of the apples.
Continental highlights include citrus - especially blood oranges. For more info on this fantastic fruit see our Product Profile from last month. Moro are now showing better colour. Other citrus from Italy and Spain include leafy unwaxed lemons, oranges, bergamot, kumquats (pictured below at H G Walker) and cedro.
Agretti (a.k.a. monks' beard) is another seasonal special.
Also from the Continent are quince, kohlrabi, rose garlic, purple cauliflowers, fennel, artichokes, Tropea onions, salsify, black radish, rocket and flat parsley. Note the Dutch season is starting for lines such as tomatoes.
Prices remain high on courgettes, aubergines, Iceberg and Cos. “Anything with leaf is still quite expensive,” explains Spencer Cummings at Gilgrove. “The problem will be over soon.”
Exotics include lychees, standard figs and these cute baby figs over at Gilgrove.
Finally, here's a glimpse of the new set-up at P&I, a wholesaler known for their focus on British produce. New fridges make for an impressive sight.
See you in March for my next Market Report. Feel free to drop me a line with any questions or comments.