Fruit and Veg

November's Fruit and Veg Market Report

Written by Tom Moggach
November 05, 2012

'Mouth going numb yet?' asks Paul Love on Neil Brown Herbs. He's fed me a Sechuan button, a flower bud what makes my lips tingle, then delivers a peppery kick.

These flower buds, part of Westland's Inspired range and also supplied by Dutch rival Koppertcress, are perhaps the weirdest product on the Market.

In stark contrast, most of the other highlights this November are more mellow in flavour.

Roots and squashes are at their very best. "I always say it's pumpkin and butternut squash weather – it's soups and stews. My customers want turnips and leeks," states grocer Maureen Peck, who trades on Portobello Road.

Roots of the moment include beetroots, celeriac, turnips, parsnips, swedes and carrots. Pumpkins and a wide variety of squashes are also on hand.

For other leafy veg, expect tip-top kale, cavolo nero, purple sprouting, cabbage, spinach, radicchio and chard. Sweetcorn, sadly, is over.

Prices for potatoes remain unusually high. (This is largely due to a 20 – 30% drop in yields because of poor weather during the growing season, explains wholesalers P & I. Supermarkets have also pushed up their buying price to ensure a consistent supply).

Terrific globe artichokes and Jerusalem artichokes are arriving from the Continent, alongside fresh walnuts and chestnuts.

For fruit, the citrus season is underway, with fruit from South Africa now being superseded by Moroccan, then Spanish.

Grapes are mainly from South Africa; melons from South America and sometimes Israel. Quinces, mostly from France, are well worth a look.

For British fruit, apples remain the highlight. Braeburn is the latest large-scale variety to feature, alongside russets, Cox and Royal Gala. Pears are more scarce, with some supplies arriving from France and Belgium.

Outside, I meet Charles Ross from Covent Garden Buyers, who is putting together deliveries for trucks bound for Suffolk, Cambridge and Bury St Edmunds.

"Our customers are based outside London – all over the place," he says. He specialises in exotics and wild mushrooms, which are now peak season.

Expect to find trompettes, girolles (aka chanterelle), pied de mouton and pied blue. "My customers like a mix of wilds," he says. "They’re not going for kilos of girolles."

Back in the cafe, I chat with Philip Bushby, a herb supplier, about the vagaries of the herb trade.

Right now, he is still receiving British-grown coriander and parsley, including from one Asian grower who has taken over an ex-RAF airfield site in Suffolk.

Like many, he was also looking forward to the imminent start of the season for leafy clementines - now there’s a fruit that brightens up our winter.

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