I heard on BBC Breakfast News the other day that more rain had fallen during the first 10 days of June than would normally be expected throughout the whole month. At the time of writing, however, I’d hazard a guess that the relentlessness of subsequent downpours have probably caused the average amount of rain to exceed June and July combined - or at least that’s the way it feels to a rain-sodden bystander. Anyway, the consequences of all this doesn’t just mean abandoned picnics and cancelled days out at the seaside; it also affects the ability of farmers to harvest their crops. The almost unremitting deluge has turned their growing fields into quagmires, with the upshot being that certain types of domestic veg won’t make it to market and will therefore be in short supply. Needless to say that this will necessitate becoming heavily reliant on more expensive foreign imports. The product lines most affected at present (or likely soon to become so) are Cabbages of all types, Cauliflower, Broccoli, and Baby Salad Leaves; and if the current situation continues for much longer, upcoming new season Carrots are almost certain to be hit equally hard.
When I was a callow and crusty-kneed lad in baggy shorts and sporting a pudding-bowl haircut, the humble Gooseberry was sold loose by weight in brown paper bags from the local greengrocer for a shilling a pound. Nowadays they're mostly sold in punnets for a veritable king's ransom, because after decades in the wilderness they were 're-discovered' a few years back and subsequently elevated to a position whereby they came to be regarded as a rare delicacy. Imagine my surprise and delight during my last visit to the market a few days ago, therefore, when I encountered some new season English Gooseberries being sold loose in trays. A few factors of which you should be mindful, however, is that these early examples are somewhat diminutive and not as sweetly-sharp as one might expect from later crops. irrespective of whether they’re loose or in punnets, they won’t be anywhere near as cheap as a shilling a pound.
It was around this time last year that I announced the arrival of new season English Rainbow Chard, but being somewhat limp and scrawny, my advice at the time was to avoid it. I’m pleased to say, however, that this year’s early offerings are much more promising and consequently I have no such reservations. My previous comments notwithstanding, I’d nevertheless like to make the observation that it is somewhat slender and the leaves aren’t quite as broad as they are likely to become, given a few more weeks. But on a more positive note, it does possess all the most crucial elements, such as firm and succulent stalks, whose colours (white, yellow and red/purple) are vibrant and keen, and leaves which are verdant, glossy and tender.
English Round Lettuce is looking really lovely, with slightly crinkly leaves that are arranged in a compact, overlapping, rosetted configuration which seem to give it much more substance than the looser-leafed varieties.
Did you know that the Peanut is a type of Legume, which makes it a relative of the Garden Pea? That’s all very well, but where is this heading? Well, when food writers often say that such-and-such a vegetable tastes nutty, the term is often used somewhat loosely and rather vaguely. But I swear to you that the English Fresh Garden Peas I’ve just tried are not only sweet and grassy, but do in fact have a nuttiness to them that can actually be attributed to a particular nut, namely the aforementioned peanut. It’s true – and if you don’t believe me, try them for yourselves.
French in the husk Corn-On-The-Cob is now in the market, but, to be honest, what I saw wasn’t anything to write home about. For example, when I peeled back the shrouds of a couple of them I found that the uppermost kernels weren’t properly formed, and the rest of them were pale and not very tender looking. My advice is to wait a couple more weeks for English new season crops to arrive.
Fruit of the Week
The Market Alert
Wet Weather Alert
Please refer to the first paragraph overleaf giving information on how the current spate of wet weather is likely to affect the availability and price of certain UK crops.
We’re now beginning to see the first early signs of the deterioration in the quality of English Asparagus. It’s still worth buying - especially as prices are now at an all-time low, but be advised that, in our buyer’s opinion, it is no longer at its very best.
New season Spanish Chantenay Carrots are almost the size of regular carrots.
The market price of both Belgian and French Leeks has almost doubled since last week.
The market price of Peeled Garlic, too, has almost doubled in price.
The market price of both Round and Banana Shallots has increased considerably since last week.
English Beetroot has now finished, which means a switch to Spanish imports.
English Celeriac has now finished.
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.
Ongoing Alert: Savoy Cabbage remains almost entirely unavailable due to new season Summer Crops being of such poor quality. The current spate of unseasonably wet weather is bound to make matters much worse.
The market price of both Red Cabbage and White Cabbage remains high. Again, the current spate of wet weather is bound to make matters much worse (see first paragraph overleaf).
Ongoing Alert: Both Brown Skinned and Red Skinned Onions are continuing to experience shortages, as well as higher prices as a consequence.
Red Chillies remain very, very expensive.
Inconsistencies in the size of Plums remains an issue.
The availability of both Ruby and Yellow Grapefruit remains tight and prices high as a consequence.