Egremont Russets, Rambutans & Brussels Tops

Once again these pages are dominated by the arrival of yet more new season English Apples, for which I make no apology due to the fact that apples is something this sceptered isle still does better than just about anywhere. Furthermore, declining sales of home-grown varieties means that many of them are in danger of dwindling out of existence altogether unless greater efforts are made in urging people to rediscover them. The Cox is arguably this country’s most celebrated apple, so it’s with enormous pleasure I’m able to announce their arrival in the market. The equally good news is that rather than encountering a few dribs and drabs scattered here and there about the place, there was instead what I can best describe as a very strong and widespread presence throughout the market’s hallowed halls. As one might expect, at this early stage in the season they were crisp, juicy and sweetly acidic. If this is how you like your apples, then now's the time to buy them. Over time they will become softer, mellower, less crunchy and more floury - which is not to be taken as a negative, but merely a description of what you should expect as they reach full maturity. That's what is so wonderful about the Cox, namely its evolution from a fairly brisk and extrovert fruit into something splendidly rich and self-effacingly affable. English Egremont Russet apples (pictured) possess brownish-green, rustic and rough-textured skins, whose flesh at this stage will be yielding, but nevertheless quite crunchy, slightly acidic and reminiscent of dry cider with elements of almond. As it matures, however, it too, in common with the Cox, will become softer, more floury and sweeter. Lastly, I’d like to mention a fairly obscure variety called Lord Lambourne, which was first cultivated in England in 1907 and shares many of the characteristics mentioned in relation to early season Cox (which it’s believed may be one of its primary ancestors), including an orange flush over pale-green skin and crisp, acidic flesh which has been described as “pleasantly strong”.

Brazilian Lychees are currently abundant and really rather lovely - if the examples I encountered in the market a couple of days ago are anything to go by. Indonesian Rambutans are just starting to appear, and for those of you unfamiliar with them, or for whom the name rings a bell but whose attributes remain elusive, they’re a fruit very similar in all respects (including texture and flavour) to the lychee, but encased in a reddish-brown porcupine-like, soft, spiny shell. Available in 500g punnets, these are a real eye-grabber, these, so would make a fantastic component in any fruit display or platter.

Wet Walnuts, unlike the ones we’re used to cracking open and delving into at Christmas, are newly harvested and therefore haven’t had time to dry-out and develop a hard shell during long periods of storage; instead, the shell is less brittle (although not exactly soft) and has a distinctly and permanently damp feel to it. The kernels themselves, being still young, are moist, tender and succulent, possessing a soft yet crunchy texture similar to pine nuts. One of autumn’s great delicacies, they’ve just arrived from France and are available now.

Barely a week since announcing the arrival of English Brussels Sprouts, I can this week herald the arrival of English Brussels Tops, which is noteworthy because it often takes several more weeks for them to follow in their wake. As their name suggests, Brussels Tops is the name given to the uppermost foliage which forms a leafy cluster at the end of the long stalk along whose length the Brussels Sprouts themselves are attached. Similar in composition to spring and winter greens but with thinner stems and shorter, rounder leaves, they possess a mild, kale-like flavour that’s much sweeter in comparison to the plant’s often bitter-tasting buds. They’re also very tender, so can be prepared, cooked and utilised very much like both spinach and pak choi.

Fruit of the Week

Yellow Fleshed Peach (France)

Market Alert

Ongoing Alert: Although there seems to be more English Radicchio in the market of late (and of very good quality, I might add), at the time of writing it nevertheless remains in short supply.

Ongoing Alert: Avocados are still experiencing market shortages and high prices as a consequence.

Iceberg Lettuce is in short supply due to the knock on effect of flooding a couple of months ago in the

Lancashire area where much of our supply is grown.

Spanish Apricots and Plums appear to be on their last legs, and it’s unlikely that Peaches and Nectarines will last the month. That isn’t to say they’ll necessarily no longer be available, but the quality will have declined to the extent whereby they’ll no longer be worth the money.

Despite them being more abundant this week compared to last week, the market availability of Paw Paw remains tight.

Also mentioned overleaf, English fresh Broad Beans have now finished. Spanish imports should be along fairly soon.

English Corn-On-The-Cob’s days are numbered, but at present they’re abundant and cheap enough to justify giving them a try - but don’t leave it too much longer.

At the time of writing, the market availability of both English Strawberries and Raspberries was a bit tight.

Quality of both is still good enough to avoid having to change supply to Dutch imports, but this is being assessed daily.