During one of my regular expeditions into the darkest realms of the market hall a few days ago I encountered some new season Dutch Strasberries. Contrary to a common misconception, the Strasberry is not – repeat, NOT a hybrid of strawberry and raspberry, but a pure variety of Wild Strawberry that shares many of the physical characteristics of the raspberry, such as its deep red colouring, its round shape, its soft-texture and ‘bumpy’ exterior. I found their flavour more sharp than sweet and possessing notes of blackcurrant. They come in 125g punnets and, depending on demand, we may have to impose a minimum order of a tray, which comprises 12 punnets in total. Also, as a consequence of them being considered something of a rare delicacy whose season tends to be quite short, volumes will be relatively low, so we suggest giving us perhaps an extra day’s notice when ordering them. Whilst on the subject of Strawberries, at the time of writing our standard variety are all English grown, which might mean they’re not quite as uniform in either size or shape as the often better-graded Dutch ones they replace, and furthermore means yet another change in punnet size (from 500g to 400g to be precise). The upside is, though, that they’re arguably the best-tasting examples of their kind available anywhere.
Lychees are now back in the market with the arrival of new season Mexican crops which, it must be said, are a lot less common than the ones from China, which by far make up the overwhelming majority of those imported into the UK.
It was remiss of me, I know, but I failed to mention last week the recent arrival of new season New Zealand Golden Kiwis (which is ironic, considering that I’m always teasing those chefs who forget to order stuff on the first attempt because they didn’t write it down). As the name suggests, both their skin and flesh are of a distinctly yellower hue than their more common relatives, and their flavour smoother, less acidic (some would argue less fruity) and more vanilla-esque.
We have now made the transition almost entirely to English Salad Leaves, which, to labour the point, means that our standard fayre comprising Lollorosso and Lollobiondi (both pictured together, and both magnificent to behold), Oakleaf, Frisee, Round Lettuce, Iceberg, Cos and Baby Gem are now all home-grown. The astute among you, however, will have noticed one important omission, namely Radicchio. That’s because, dedicated as we are to favouring domestically produced fruit & veg whenever possible, the truth is that Italian Radicchio is the best there is, and will consequently be given preference even over our own.
Some may accuse me of being somewhat obsessed by French Heritage Tomatoes, because I never seem to miss any opportunity to mention them. Well, for the record, I might be obsessed by many things (most of which are unfit for publication), but tomatoes of any description are not one of them. However, these are without exception the most beautiful and most well-presented of all the heritage collections one is likely to encounter, as to which, I believe, the picture I took recently of the current selection will testify. I won’t bother to name any of the 11 or so varieties included, because there’s a small illustrated colour booklet enclosed with them that should suffice. All that remains, is to encourage you to marvel at their awesomeness (hate that word, but its use is entirely justified), and to inform you that they’re available in 3.5kg straw-lined wooden trays (no splits), and that current prices for them should be quite reasonable.