Let’s be brutally honest from the off by stating without reservation, that the general standard of Ware Potatoes has been pants for the last few months, and I’d like to explain why. You see, in the UK, most potatoes are planted in April and harvested throughout the summer and autumn months, the exact time of which being dependent upon the particular variety concerned.
Early-maturing cultivars, which are harvested first, are known as ‘first earlies’’; those which follow are called ‘second earlies’, and lastly come the ‘main crop’, (these include the larger ware varieties such as Maris Piper, King Edward and the like) which are typically harvested in September. This means that the main crop spuds currently in use have been in storage for around 10 months now, so it shouldn’t be of any real surprise that they’re not exactly at their peak.
The good news is that the first new season Baking Potatoes will start coming on stream this week.
Furthermore, in addition to the arrival of the early maincrop spuds mentioned last time, namely Koffman’s Chippers and Roasters, I can this week announce the appearance in the market of another home-grown, new season, early maincrop ware variety called Ambo (pictured). The Ambo Potato is a relatively new variety that was developed in Ireland in 1996 and is the result of crossing red-skinned Desiree with a white-skinned variety called Cara. What this produced was a long, oval spud with a red-flushed white skin and deep-set eyes (not too dissimilar in its outward appearance to King Edward in fact) and a creamy-white, waxy flesh. Despite its waxiness, the Ambo is marketed as an all-purpose variety that copes equally well as a boiler and masher, baker and roaster. Being an early maincrop harvester, new season English crops have already now started to arrive in the market and should be available to order by the time you read this.
Darker than Dick Dastardly’s moustache, sweeter than the smile on the face of a child with a mouthful of candy-floss, new season Black Muscat Grapes are, quite simply, superb in every respect. Firm and crunchy and clinging tightly to the stalk, their one drawback is that they’re supposed to be a seeded variety and likely to contain the odd pip or two. I say “supposed to be” because, at the time of writing, I have yet to encounter a single one (pip, that is) among the many samples of Muscat grapes I’ve thus far consumed. Notwithstanding this fact, it’s only right nevertheless that I make you aware of the probability that, in time, just such an encounter will inevitably occur (the prospect of which may render the chances of you giving them a try somewhat remote), which is a shame, because they're widely regarded as one of the world's classic grape cultivars.
Bang on cue, new season English Corn-On-The-Cob has now arrived. Of a good size and still encased in their tight, rubbery shrouds, the kernels of early crops can tend to be a little pale, but one shouldn’t infer from this that they might be lacking in sweetness or overall flavour. Admittedly, they will get more flavoursome in time, but the argument could be made that at this early stage they are much juicier, more succulent and more tender. Furthermore, being still in their husk means you can dispense with all the paraphernalia involved in boiling or steaming them and just bung ‘em au naturelle in the microwave for about 3-4 minutes and, viola!
Our selection of British Mixed Cultivated Mushrooms has grown steadily in popularity in the last couple of years, because our customers have come to realise that what they’ll receive is a 500g punnet comprising an array of the most attractive and delectable examples imaginable for a relatively modest amount of dosh. At the time of writing, what’s included in the mix amazes even me, with the likes of King Oyster, Pink Oyster and Yellow Oyster, a bit of Yellow Chanterelles, some Shimeji and some Enoki all present. Well impressive!
Fruit of the Week
Ongoing Alert: Market availability of Cherry Tomatoes remains very tight across the board, but is much worse with regard Loose Cherry Tomatoes, which are currently so scarce that they have had to be withdrawn from sale.
Yukon Baby Leeks and Baby Fennel are currently in short supply and of variable quality. Their full sized versions are suffering in the heat on the continent too.
Belgian Conference Pears remain hard work due to end of season shortages.
Avocados are still experiencing market shortages and high prices.
Ongoing Alert: Baby Salad Leaves are still partly being imported from the continent. We would usually be self sufficient in them at this time of year. Unpredictable weather patterns do not agree with this product and shortages and quality issues will keep occurring.
English Radicchio is currently in short supply. Furthermore, flooding in the Yorkshire growing fields may cause shortages of other types of Salad Leaves (as well as Brassicas) if the current spate of wet weather continues for much longer.
Ongoing Alert: The market price of both Belgian and French Leeks remains quite high. Luckily we are now using English leeks almost exclusively.
Ongoing Alert: The deterioration in the quality of White Washed Ware Potatoes remains an issue as reserves which have been held in storage since last autumn continue to deplete. However, new season arrivals are now only a matter of weeks away (see overleaf).
Ongoing Alert: White Cabbage still isn’t as cheap as we would like, though lack of demand during the summer holidays has meant more product is temporarily available.
Ongoing Alert: The price of both Premium Sweet Potatoes and Standard Sweet Potatoes, remains very high.
Ongoing Alert: Small-medium sized Paw-Paw are continuing to experience market shortages. Large and Giant examples are so far unaffected, which means that these are the ones you are likely to get, so please bear this in mind before ordering.
Ongoing Alert: Red Chillies remain very expensive.
The availability of both Ruby and Yellow Grapefruit remains tight and prices high as a consequence.
Both Round and Banana Shallots remain expensive.