Plums, Plums, Plums & Pluots!

Updated: Aug 4, 2019

There’s a distinctly plummy theme to this week’s publication (well, at least the first part), and we’ll start with news of the arrival of English Opal Plums. Small and oval, with their colour ranging between yellow, yellowish-green, green and then purple. Their flesh is golden with a texture that’s non-fibrous and slightly grainy and surrounds a smallish almond-shaped stone which sits quite loosely in its cavity, and is therefore known as a “non-clinging” stone. They’re a dual-purpose plum, but their usually quite scruffy appearance often means they’re used primarily as a culinary rather than a table or dessert fruit. Looks aside, they’re, arguably among the sweetest of all plum varieties, whose flavour I can best describe as being a bit like caramelised sugar or candy floss infused with a hint of vanilla and possessing little or no traces of citrus.

And there’s more, because new season Spanish Greengages have also just arrived. Approximately the size, shape and colour of a small-ish green salad tomato, they wouldn’t normally start to appear until around the first or second week of August, but with the current heatwave sweeping not only the UK, but much of Europe, it’s possible that they’ve come to fruition earlier than usual, or perhaps growers have decided to pick them early so as not to risk leaving them exposed to the sun for too long. If my second theory is correct it would explain why the ones I encountered during my last visit to the market a few days ago were a bit on the hard side and very sharp, and in my opinion not quite ready for sale just yet.

French Greengages would usually start to appear a couple of weeks after the Spanish, with English crops arriving a further week or two thereafter - but in the present climate, no one can be certain of anything.

Another plum variety which shouldn’t be too far off is French President, of which I shall speak further once they do in fact make an appearance. Rosesweet Pluot plums are also an excellent buy.

I’m about to tell you everything I know about Spanish Limelon, in the hope that what little there is will succeed in rousing your interest. It’s a new Melon variety which possesses yellowish-green skin that is partially overlaid with a patchy, darker green patterning that, close up, looks to have been created by running the side of a green crayon down along its length. Its shape is quite round, its size is approximate to that of a small watermelon and its flesh is very pale and tastes, as the name suggests, like melon infused with lime. Despite such scant personal knowledge of the product in question, our buyers nevertheless decided to throw all caution to the proverbial wind and order some in, and were furthermore keen that I should give them a mention.

For those of you who’ve never used them, the arrival of new season Koffman Chipping & Roasting Potatoes serves as an ideal opportunity for me to acquaint you with them. What makes them so ideal for chipping and roasting is their high “dry matter” ratio of around 19%-22%, which means the chips or roasts will be light and fluffy on the inside and crisp on the outside. Introduced to the market by Michelin Star accredited chef Pierre Koffman, they’re very highly regarded by the many of our chefs who, once they tried them, wouldn’t now dream of using any other for their specific purpose. A couple more things to mention are that they come ready-cleaned and are only available in 20kg sacks – which means we can’t split them, I’m afraid.

English Bunched Rainbow Carrots are looking superb.

English Purple Kohl Rabi looks very impressive.

French new season Celeriac has just arrived.

English Cavalo Nero (Black Cabbage) is a lot more abundant since I spoke of it last week – and very moody and sexy it looks, too.

Both Purple and Orange Cauliflowers have re-appeared and should, in the short term at least, be readily available.

Fruit of the Week

Pluot Plum (Spain)

Market Alert

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 appear to be suffering under the heat, which has lead to a deterioration in quality.

End of season shortages mean that Belgian Conference Pears are becoming hard work.

At the time of writing, Avocados are experiencing market shortages.

Ongoing Alert: Baby Salad Leaves are still predominantly being imported form the continent due to the widespread depletion in home-grown crops resulting from the unseasonably wet weather experienced in June.

Ongoing Alert: The market price of Belgian and French Leeks remains high. First crop English are even higher.

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.

White Cabbage still isn’t as cheap as we would like.

Ongoing Alert: The price of both Premium Sweet Potatoes and Standard Sweet Potatoes, remains exceptionally high and showing no signs of a reduction any time soon. As mentioned last week (and the week before that), one of our buyers with over 40 years’ experience has commented that in all that time he has never known prices to reach such a level - not even in comparative terms.

Ongoing Alert: Pre-Peeled Garlic continues to command a high price.

Ongoing Alert: Small-medium sized Paw-Paw are continuing to experience 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.

Red Chillies remain expensive.

The availability of both Ruby and Yellow Grapefruit remains tight and prices high as a consequence.

Both Round and Banana Shallots remain expensive.