Yellow Plums are back on sale after a brief hiatus and go by the name of October Sun. Although originally bred in Japan, the ones I encountered were from Italy – which, together with the USA and Australia, are among the biggest growers of this particular variety. They’re of a good size (approximately 60-65mm in diameter) with a pinkish-orange blush and pale-yellow flesh which is soft, juicy and fairly grainy in texture and possesses a flavour that is pleasant, sweet and mild with very little acidity.
Chilean Cherries are now in the market. South American Cherries generally are renowned for their quality – even very early in the season, and these are no exception. Burnished by the harsh lights of the market hall, one’s initial impulse is to reach out and touch them; one’s next is to pick one up and roll it between thumb and forefinger to test the full extent of their lustrousness just before biting into it. The texture is firm and meaty and the flavour which greets your tongue is reminiscent of a full-bodied Shiraz infused with lemon sherbet and burnt sugar. Their one drawback, and it is a big one, is their cost. To put it bluntly, very expensive. In fact, so expensive are they that we haven’t yet put them on sale and have no plans to do so until their price drops significantly – which might take another couple of weeks. If you simply must have them before then, however, we could just swing it for you if you’d be prepared to buy a whole 5kg box. But be warned that it might just cost you everything you hold most dear – plus a bit extra.
Golden Kiwis are fairly abundant at present, which is good news for us because there’s been a bit of surge in sales of late. Appropriately enough, these are just in from the land of the kiwi itself, New Zealand. Possessing pale-golden skin and soft yellow flesh that can be easily scooped-out of its husk like an egg, its sweeter, smoother flavour tends to appeal to even those who aren't particularly partial to the bog-standard green kiwi. A word of caution, though, is that they’re not cheap (and that’s not meant to be a “cheap” pun either).
There’s been a switch since last week from Spanish to Egyptian Strawberries and which has brought with it a switch, too, in punnet size from 500g to 250g, so please do bear this in mind when deciding on what quantities you might need.
The rise in the popularity of Kale over the last few years is undeniable, but it has tended to be confined to just the two common Green Curly and Red Curly varieties. There are, however, a few other types currently available which might just take your fancy, such as the two examples of Variegated Kale pictured here. One of them goes by the name of White Queen, and the other Purple Queen. I'll leave you to decide for yourselves which one is which (no prizes for guessing correctly). And it doesn't end there, oh no, because there are also a couple of ''Ragged Jack'' varieties which, again, are available in both White and Purple and known respectively as White Russian and Red Russian kale (although, in this instance, their hue refers mainly to the colour of their succulent, edible stalks rather than their frilly, oak-like leaves – which, in regard to both, happen to be pale-green). It must be remarked upon, though, that the Red Russian's leaves do have a purplish tinge to them.
Italian Fennel is excellent at present, as are Italian Globe Artichokes, and are therefore highly recommended.
Wild Mushrooms available at the time of writing comprise Yellow Chanterelle, Girolle, Pied De Mouton and Trompette.
Fruit of the Week
Belgian Conference Pear
Ongoing Alert: As mentioned last week, and which deserves to be repeated, one of our major potato suppliers reckons the recent wet weather has almost brought potato harvesting to a standstill in most areas of the country and that there are some real concerns as to whether the remaining crops still in the ground, estimated at between 10-15%, will be lifted before next spring. They go on to state that crop quality overall is likely to be “variable”. Farmers are moving over to stored crops now, which will increase prices.
Ongoing Alert: Further to the above comments, and which also needs to be re-emphasised, is the fact that what remains of UK grown Cauliflowers and Green Cabbages are suffering from similar harvesting issues to potatoes. The heads are also smaller due to growing conditions being far from ideal.
At the time of writing, the heads of Spanish Broccoli are a bit on the small side, according to a few of our customers. If you find this to be the case, don’t be concerned that you might be losing out, because we only charge Broccoli by weight - even if you order it by the head.
The same issue has been noted in our Peppers. Please order by weight to avoid disappointment .
At the time of writing, the quality of Leaf Spinach isn’t that great, so our advice is to avoid it until further notice if at all possible.
As has been mentioned previously, home-grown Chard, could start to suffer if temperatures fall significantly.
Ongoing Alert: Green Grapes remain more difficult to obtain compared to Red varieties at present. As explained last week, this is because Brazilian and Peruvian supplies are arriving with slightly withered stalks resulting from their three week sea journey. The berries are still delicious, but compared to European crops whose season has just ended, the stalks look a little tired.
There’s a better than average chance that Spanish Satsumas may have finished by the end of the week.
The December Fruitbowl
As surprising as it may seem to those of us now beginning to experience the cold climes of a north-European winter, December is usually quite a good month for those compiling fruit bowls, baskets and platters.
In terms of quantity, there’s usually still an abundance of English and Continental Apples and Pears around, to be joined by the arrival of Red Williams Pears.
Citrus Fruits of all types will continue to improve and they'll be a host of delicious examples from which to choose, including Satsumas, Leaf and Baby Clementines and new season Navel Oranges. Furthermore, if this year follows the same pattern as the last two, Sicilian Blood Oranges might also make an appearance during the month.
In the Southern Hemisphere it is high summer which means stone fruits such as South African Peaches, Nectarines and Apricots should have already begun to appear in the market. Although early examples can be hard and bland and initially very expensive, their quality should have improved by mid-month, by which time prices are likely to have come down by some degree.
South American Cherries (which should have started in mid-to-late November) are beautiful to behold and often more delicious than the European and North American crops of June and July. Their price, though, will be very, very high and it will likely be necessary to impose a minimum order requirement - at least during the first few weeks after their arrival.
Golden Kiwis should be abundant, plus a wide selection of reasonably priced "semi-exotics" to add distinction to your displays and platters, such as Sharon Fruit (as well as Persimmon and Kaki Fruit), Pomegranates, Passionfruit, Custard Apples (Cherimoyas)and Prickly Pears. Lychees should become more plentiful, and therefore much cheaper as the month progresses.