A tap on my shoulder – a passing customer spots the messy scrawl in my notebook. "You could get a job on this firm with writing like that," he quips.
It’s banter like this that’s a highlight on the Market. Cyril Brookner agrees, a 70-year old celebrating fifty years working as a salesman. "It gives you a buzz," he says.
Modest as November
Cyril is as modest as November itself – a month that feels no need to show off. The seasonal colours of the fruit and veg are less bright. Roots emerge from the ground, and step into the limelight.
For starters, expect excellent celeriac, Jerusalem artichokes, beetroot and carrots. Spuds include new crop Pink Fir and Yukon Gold, plus Maris Pipers, Marfona and King Edwards.
Squashes are abundant, including speckled Harlequins and deep green Kabochas. Most are British-grown, and often on the small side this year on account of the dry spring and disappointing summer.
Other greenery includes kale, chard, spinach, Brussel sprouts (including tops), cauliflower and magnificent cabbages: Hispi (pointed), Savoy (crinkly leaves), Primo, spring cabbage and Cavolo Nero (a.k.a black cabbage).
From Surrey, B.E.Bransden and Sons are sending in top-grade late produce including superb coriander and kohlrabi. (Available from traders including Worldwide Exotics). English salads are coming to an end, switching to the Continent.
As for fruit, English apple varieties include Cox, russets and Braeburn. Both Comice and Conference pears are readily available. Amalfi lemons are on offer at French Garden. The first cranberries and chestnuts have also arrived.
Pomegranates are a good buy in November. "The Spanish are sweeter but often cut a bit light," explains David Emmett, salesman at P&I Fruits. In contrast, fruits from Lebanon and Egypt have redder flesh but juice that is a little more sour.
Cyril, the veteran salesman, specialises in soft fruit for P&I. His season is winding down, and European peaches and nectarines have also finished. Now there’s a lot of 'hardcore' fruit, which stores well, such as apples, pears and citrus.
Grapes are selling strongly, mainly from Brazil and Italy. "It’s a better trade because you’ve got less soft fruit," Cyril says. "Between now and when the first South African boats arrive is the height of the season." Cyril offers a quick tip for potential buyers – look for "a nice green stalk".
Finally, a new delicacy popped us this month courtesy of Koppert Cress, the Dutch masters-of-the-unusual. Syrha leaves promise a mild and tangy flavour. David Piper at C&C Exotics offered me a taste - similar to sorrel, I reckon. In fact, I would bet that the plant is related to the rare Buckler-leaved variety of common sorrel.
As I leave, I ask Cyril what he enjoys most on the market: "When you buy something and sell it at a profit." It’s the reply of a true salesman.