I say this rather reservedly, but last week’s warnings of potentially drastic shortages of certain domestic crops (Cabbages, Broccoli, Cauliflower) caused by June’s unseasonably wet weather appears (so far) not to be quite as severe as at first feared. However, the availability of home grown crops will nevertheless be affected to some degree which, combined with the need to use imported produce to help meet any shortfall, will mean higher prices as a consequence. Much worse affected, though, are home grown Baby Salad Leaves, such as Baby Spinach, Roquette and Red Chard. The news from farmers concerning these crops is that harvesting has been delayed by as much as 10 days and that, of those crops which are salvageable, their quality is likely to suffer greatly - at least in the short term.
Last week I devoted quite a bit of space to the arrival of English Gooseberries, so this week I don’t intend to spend too much time discussing the subsequent appearance of English Red Gooseberries. Suffice to say, other than their colour, Red Gooseberries differ from their green cousins inasmuch as they’re much sweeter and considerably less sharp. Contrary to popular myth, Red Gooseberries can be used for cooking (if very firm), it’s just that doing so might be considered a bit of a waste. See, I told you I’d be brief.
At the time of writing, Spanish Splendor are our standard variety Plum, and I must say that they’re by far the nicest I’ve tasted for quite a while. Of a good size with deep, dark skins and golden, melting flesh (“melting”, in this context, is a term used by horticulturalists to describe flesh which is fairly grainy and which doesn’t cling to the stone). Furthermore, although juicy and sweet, they’re not overly sweet, possessing as they do a well-balanced combination of syrupiness with hints of citrus and vanilla. Nice. Spanish
Golden Japan Plums (pictured) are a Yellow Plum variety I don’t think I’ve encountered before, but they popped-up in the market last week and should hopefully be available for sale by the time you read this. I’ve not had a chance to sample them myself, but yellow plums as a rule tend to be sweet and lemony. One word of advice, though, which is that they are somewhat on the small side and may be quite expensive – so please bear both these factors in mind before deciding to order them.
English Cherries have started – but only just, which means that I didn’t actually see any during my recent visit to the market a mere few days ago. When I do eventually manage to clap eyes on some you will, of course, be among the first to know about it.
With the Wimbledon Tennis Championships nearly upon us, customers are advised that demand for Strawberries is likely to go through the roof, the inevitable consequence of which is that prices are guaranteed to follow suit. It’s not the sheer volume of strawberries consumed at the tournament itself that impacts on the market price, but more the case that, bitten by the Wimbledon bug, everyone else feels compelled to eat more strawberries – and it’s this that causes a surge in demand.
English Runner Beans have just arrived in the market You may not be aware, but there are several varieties of runner beans, but by far the commonest one grown in Britain is the Scarlett Emperor, whose name doesn't actually refer to the colour of the beans contained within the pods themselves (which are a mottled combination of deep red and creamy white), but the flowers produced by the plant. In fact, when they were first introduced into Britain in the 17th century it was because of their decorative qualities as an ornamental plant and not for their edible seeds. Runner Beans are best cooked whole and are a good source of vitamin C and folic acid; a 100g portion will provide 3g of dietary fibre and supply 20kcal (85kJ) of energy. Runner Beans also contain traces of a poisonous lectin, which means they shouldn’t be eaten raw or undercooked.
It’s taken a while, but new crop, new season English Summer Savoy Cabbages have arrived, and magnificent they are, too.
Marrows are another English new season crop which has just started to arrive in the market, but due to a shortage of space, I’ll speak more of them next week - although you can order them before then.
Fruit of the Week
Flat Peach (Spain)
Wet Weather Alert
Please refer to the first paragraph overleaf giving updated information on how the current spate of wet weather is likely to affect the availability and price of certain UK crops.
As mentioned in greater detail overleaf, the price of Strawberries is set to rise and remain expensive during Wimbledon Fortnight.
The deterioration of English Asparagus is becoming increasingly apparent and customers are therefore advised that Peruvian and Mexican imports are now exceeding it in terms of quality.
At the time of writing, Small and Medium Paw-Paw appear to be suffering shortages in the market.
As mentioned last week, new season Spanish Chantenay Carrots are almost the size of regular carrots, so avoid them if your primary reason for using them is because you're looking for something more diminutive.
The market price of both Belgian and French Leeks remains quite high.
The market price of Peeled Garlic, too, continues to command high prices.
The market price of both Round and Banana Shallots remains expensive.
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.
The market price of both Red Cabbage and White Cabbage remains high.
Red Chillies remain very, very expensive.
The availability of both Ruby and Yellow Grapefruit remains tight and prices high as a consequence.