Blood Oranges, White Swiss Chard & Spanish Heritage Tomatoes

This will be our final Market Report of 2019. On behalf of the whole team at 4DegreesC, we'd like to take a moment to thank all of our customers for your business in 2019 and to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

New season Sicilian Blood Oranges have arrived. Despite not usually reaching their peak until around the third or fourth week of the New Year, I must say that the early examples I recently encountered in the market were nevertheless really rather good. As you might expect, their sanguinity levels were not very high, possessing only the occasional and merest hints of pale scarlet flecking – as if the colour had been gently and only partially applied with an airbrush. At this stage the juicy flesh is slightly more sharp than sweet - but not sharp in a wincing, acerbic sense, but rather more akin to a sherbet-y tanginess. Over the ensuing few weeks, however, the balance between sweet and sharp will gradually shift as the sweeter elements of the fruit evolve and come to the fore, with the sharpness taking on a more subtle and less imposing supporting role. Ultimately, at the very peak of the fruit’s development, almost the entire flesh, as well as the majority of the outer rind, will have attained a deep crimson hue – which is the very stage that’s known by fruiters universally as PERFECTION.

The current squeeze on the availability of Sweet Citruses shouldn’t deter you from giving Spanish Leaf Clementines a try, because they taste gorgeous. Admittedly, the odd few still carry a slight green patina to their skins, but, because it has no influence on flavour, I don’t think that most customers with an ounce of sophistication would necessarily regard this as a defect. Furthermore, despite the fact that we here at the Veg Factory are sincerely dedicated to the well-being of all our Leaf Clems during their handling on the production line, we cannot guarantee that they’ll arrive at your door with all the leaves attached (that’s even assuming that we ourselves receive them in that condition). But that doesn’t make them any less worthy of being called Leaf Clementines – in the same way that shaving Liam Gallagher’s eyebrow doesn’t make him any less Liam Gallagher. Notwithstanding all what I’ve just said, the fact remains that they’re very juicy and taste fantastic, are of a good size and, despite being thin-skinned (which means you get more fruit and less pith for your money), are worthy nonetheless of being called “easy-peelers”.

Vietnamese Rambutans have just arrived in the market and are available in 1kg packs containing around 30 pieces. South African Lychees have been abundant in the market for several weeks, but it’s only in the last few days that their husks have at last achieved the shade of choral pink that would make them worthy of recommendation.

I know that I have already devoted a short paragraph to English Chard last week, but I was so taken by the newly arrived White Swiss Chard (pictured) I encountered in the market since then, that I felt compelled to give it another mention. Its stems are broad, firm and succulent and its leaves verdant, glossy and luscious, all of which make it the best I’ve seen in quite a long time.

At the time of writing, there are a few boxes of Italian Purple Cauliflowers available in the market, which are of a good size, beautiful to behold and very expensive.

During my last market visit, French Mixed Heritage Tomatoes were somewhat thin on the ground. However, there were plenty of actually rather good Spanish (pictured) and Moroccan alternatives for you to consider. Don’t expect me to name the varieties contained in each selection, though, because I’m no expert and there’s no information included in the box as to who’s who and what’s what - which is, perhaps, a drawback, but not, I would argue, a major one. The range of colours and profiles is admittedly not as broad as those offered by French growers, but I reckon these to be pretty amazing in their own right.

Wild Mushrooms available at the time of writing comprise Chanterelles, Girolles, Pied De Mouton and Trompette.

Fruit of the Week

Belgian Conference Pears

Market Alert

  • We’d like to remind customers that both Broccoli Heads and Cauliflowers are still on the small side and we urge you to bear this in mind when ordering. Peppers, too, are still experiencing size inconsistencies, and we therefore further advise you to order them by weight.

  • The availability of English and French Romanesco is currently very tight.

  • At the time of writing, one of our buyers has reported a market shortage of both Flat Parsley and Coriander.

  • As mentioned overleaf, French Heritage Tomatoes seem to be a bit scarce, but there are plenty of Spanish and Moroccan alternatives currently in the market.

  • Delayed production of Sugar Snaps and Mange Tout in both Egypt and Guatemala means imports from either are not likely to arrive for at least another 3-4 weeks. When this situation occurs we can normally rely on Kenyan crops to but the Kenyan growing regions are experiencing some extremely wet weather - and Mange Tout and Sugar Snaps don’t like it wet, because it causes what are known as “pepper spots”. Supplies of both products will be limited and erratic for at least the next four weeks. Furthermore, another victim of the wet weather in Kenya is Tenderstem Broccoli, whose production will also be adversely affected. Normally we’d recommend a switch to Purple Sprouting Broccoli, but most of the ground in the UK where it’s grown is currently frozen solid, making harvesting impossible.

  • The quality of Leaf Spinach remains problematic.

  • Ongoing Alert: Green Grapes remain more difficult to obtain compared to Red varieties. As explained last week, this is because Brazilian and Peruvian supplies are arriving with slightly withered stalks resulting from their three week sea journey. The berries are still delicious, but compared to European crops whose season has just ended, the stalks look a little tired.

  • Sweet Citruses across the board are experiencing market shortages. It was predicted last week that there was a better than average chance that Spanish Satsumas may have finished altogether by the end of the week. At the time of writing, however, they are still holding on - but for how much longer is uncertain.

  • Lebanese Baby Cucumbers are very scarce.