Read the first of our new Monthly Market Reports, where food journalist Tom Moggach will be bringing you all the latest fruit and veg news and updates from the Buyers' Walk.
Frozen sprouts are no joke, especially when aimed at my head. But thankfully last month’s extreme weather – and the traders’ horseplay – are over, and deliveries into the market are running smoothly.
This is peak season for the stalwart heroes of British veg. “Carrots, cabbage, leeks and the like - this is our time,” confirms Scott Kocurek at wholesaler P& I. “Think casseroles and the Sunday roast.”
Prices have settled after the severe highs of December. Sprouts, often from Kent and Lancashire, are back to around £8 a bag – from £14 last month.
Costs are fair value for home-grown purple sprouting, cauliflowers, Brussel tops, cavolo nero, turnips, kale, and swedes. Celeriac, salsify and wild mushrooms are among Continental specialties.
'The new rocket'
For salads, a truly modern British crop is continuing to prove a firm favourite with chefs and caterers. Wow! micro leaves are grown year-round under glass in Worcestershire. “They sell themselves,” agrees Barry Grant at supplier Premier Fruits, “I call them the new rocket.”
Originally for garnish, chefs are now showcasing the leaves in salad mixes and sandwiches. Bestsellers include red amaranth, green basil and coriander; a ‘living’ range launches this month. Neil Brown Herbs and Nature’s Choice also stock the product. The extensive Koppert Cress range is available via wholesalers Gilgrove.
For traditional winter salads and greens, chicories, radicchios and cime di rapa (broccoli tops) are on hand from S Thorogood and Sons and others. The French Garden offers quality French salads. A wide range of spuds are on show, including specialties such as Yukon Gold and La Ratte.
Cox, Comice and Conference
For fruit, look out for English Braeburn, russet, and Cox apples and Comice and Conference pears.
Forced Yorkshire rhubarb is around £21 a box. Pomegranates and citrus are abundant, and blood oranges for their swift season.
Imported red and white currants are here for brightening up a plate.
Next month, love will be in the air as kitchens prepare for Valentine’s Day. Watch this space – we will be back on the first of the month.