January King, Solo Garlic & Forced Rhubarb

If a sure sign that winter is well and truly upon us could be exemplified by a single event, it would be the arrival of January King Cabbage (pictured). ‘’But it isn’t January yet’’, I hear you exclaim. ‘’A mere trifling detail’’ is my retort, for one shouldn’t allow oneself to be hoodwinked into believing that the presence of the word ‘January’ in its title somehow precludes it from being available as early as November. Given the right climatic conditions, ‘’The King’’ is under no obligation to wait in the wings until the month of its namesake arrives. First bred in England in the 1880s as a winter variety of Savoy, January King possesses a large, tightly-packed domed head surrounded by crinkly bluish-green ruff of outer leaves with purple frilly edging. Hefty, hardy, rich, full-flavoured and extremely versatile, this is a cabbage most definitely worthy of its regal epithet. Anyway, the upshot is that by the time you read this is it should be available to order.

Collard Greens are a broad-leafed, cabbage-like brassica that possess an earthy, slightly bitter flavour which has been likened to that of Kale. Sometimes sold in the UK as a variety of Spring Green, both the leaves and stems are edible and can usually be cooked simultaneously - so long as the stems are tender enough. They’re very much a staple in the USA (especially the Southern states), as well as regions as diverse as Brazil, Portugal, Zimbabwe and Kashmir, and we at the veg factory would like to see them become more widely used here in the UK. So, having found a grower in Essex, we’ve done a deal that will enable us to supply them on a regular basis. Furthermore, they’ll be available as loose leaves bundled together (very much in the same manner as Chard or Leaf Spinach) rather than as whole heads.

Chinese Solo Garlic (also known variously as Single Clove Garlic, Mono Bulb Garlic or Pearl Garlic) is similar in size and appearance to that of a medium-sized pickling onion, usually with purplish streaks running top-to-bottom down its length. Its name alludes to the fact that, unlike a regular garlic bulb which is constructed of cloves arranged in segments and separated by papery membranes, Solo Garlic is formed from of a single, spherical clove. Less pungent and slightly more perfumed than regular garlic, it works particularly well either finely sliced or baked whole, whereupon the flesh becomes paste-like and spreadable. Beautifully presented for your adoring eyes, each 250g rattan-like woven punnet is encased in a fine mesh sleeve, the contents of which will normally yield an average of around 12 bulbs.

Peruvian White Asparagus is now available, and beautiful to behold it is, too.

Wild Mushrooms available at the time of writing are Ceps, Chanterelles, Girolle and Trompette.

Our current Dried Figs differ quite a bit from the ones we used to stock, which, although delicious, to my mind resembled something the dog had sat on. These current ones, however, are rounder and more fig-like in their appearance – except very petit (just about a mouthful each, in fact). Possessing fairly thick, chewy (but not unpleasantly so) skins and a jammy, but not excessively sweet centre, they’re available in packs weighing 250g and comprising around 12-15 in number. An ideal component to any fruit platter, I would suggest.

During my last visit to the market a couple of days ago I encountered some rather beautiful-looking new season Dutch Forced Rhubarb. Long, slender and possessing a somewhat glorious shade of flamingo pink, I’m sure you’d agree it does look rather fetching.

Fresh Cranberries are beginning to arrive from North America.

Fruit of the Week

Lucas Pear - Belgium

Market Alerts

  • This is the time of year where most UK grown salads finish and we begin buying from the continent. Due to the constant rain in Lancashire over the past couple of months, we have just about scraped through with enough stock of Lettuces and also Broccoli which is usually abundant from this region until October. It is then sourced from Spain. Broccoli has also been badly affected by the wet conditions, with hundreds of acres left to rot in the fields as farm workers could not access the land.

  • I would love to say that the change over will be trouble free, but Spain endured some torrential rains and flooding a few weeks ago which has affected its growing areas for these same crops, and we have had word that some lorries which should have left Spain are either not full of the best quality stock, or not leaving at all. There is also talk of strike action at the French Spanish border. We have lined us suppliers who we trust to do the best job for us, and are confident that we will have continuity of supply.

  • Baby Leaf Salad and especially Baby Spinach is another problem product. Please be aware that it may appear wetter than usual. This is because it is generally an outdoor frown crop and absorbs some of the excess water on the land and will then five it out when cut and packaged. This is another crop that will be brought in from Spain from next week onwards.

  • Ongoing Alert: We are struggling to find perfect Pak Choi at the moment. English crops are experiencing various issues, ranging from pest damage to yellowing leaves. We are now sourcing from Spain and a better supply is due in.

  • Ongoing Alert: Avocados are still experiencing market shortages with America taking far more than usual due to worries over the Mexican border being closed. This now seems to be easing with more product becoming available.

  • Ongoing Alert: English Flat Parsley is experiencing shortages due to the wet weather and is consequently being augmented at present by Spanish imports.

  • The price of both Lemons & especially Limes remains high as Brazil has the only available fruit and are making money while they can.

  • Ongoing Alert: Fresh Figs are in very short supply due to the end of the Turkish season and their Brazilian replacements having not yet come on stream.