Brussels Tops, Parsley Root & Round Courgettes

English Brussels Tops are all over the place at present and readily available to order. Now, at this point I find myself in something of a dilemma as to whether to explain exactly what a Brussels Top is, because they’re a much more familiar sight now compared to when I first began extoling their virtues way back when they were still something of a novelty. The fact is, though, that they remain woefully underrated and underused, so it’s perhaps worth my while giving their profile a bit of a well-deserved boost. Okay, first let me explain that a Brussels Top is the name given to the uppermost foliage which forms a leafy cluster atop the very stalk along the length of which the bud-like Brussels sprouts themselves are attached. Similar in composition to regular spring and winter greens - but with thinner stems and shorter, rounder leaves - Brussels tops possess a mild, kale-like flavour that’s much sweeter in comparison to the plant’s often bitter-tasting sprouts. They’re also very tender, so can be prepared and cooked very much like spinach or pak choi, including stir-frying.

Parsley Root possesses an uncanny resemblance to parsnip, which is due to the fact that they both belong to the Apiaceae family of plants, which also include carrot, celery, chervil, fennel and celeriac. Both vegetables can be cooked in the same manner – although parsley root has a slight edge inasmuch as it can be eaten raw, ideally by thinly slicing or grating and adding it to salads and slaws. So, how does its taste differ from parsnip - if at all? Well, Parsley Root is slightly less sweet and possesses a flavour best described as a combination of carrot and celeriac, with (as one might expect) hints of parsley thrown in. Furthermore, much of their flavour is contained in the skin, so it’s advisable to scrub rather than peel them.

Escarole (sometimes referred to as Broad Leafed Endive) is a bitter-tasting member of the Chicory family and, likewise with most of its relatives (Radicchio, for example), can be consumed either cooked or raw. The slightly tougher, and sometimes darker, outer leaves are best suited for the purpose of cooking and are most often sautéed or braised or used as a soup ingredient, whilst the lighter inner leaves can be torn into pieces and used in salads – working especially well in salads which contain fruit, such as pomegranate, for example. Escarole is loaded with vitamins A, C and K and is a rich source of fibre. In a similar vein, you might also be interested in another member of the chicory family, a variant of salad Frisee and known commonly as Course Frisee. As its name suggest, it bears all the hallmarks of regular Frisee, but is much hardier and, well, courser, and can consequently be prepared and cooked in very much the same manner as the aforementioned Escarole.

I encountered some really rather nice Spanish Round Courgettes during my last visit to the market a few days ago. Roughly the size of a snooker balls and disporting attractive, greenish-white vertical stripes, they were ideal for stuffing whole, or cutting into wedges and roasting, or, indeed, slicing into larger rounds than would normally be achievable with regular courgettes, which could then be used to layer casseroles and hotpots. No less attractive were the Yellow Courgettes that were displayed alongside them on the same stall.

I mentioned briefly last week that new season North American Fresh Cranberries had started to arrive. However, at the time I was only reporting what I’d been told because I hadn’t actually seen any for myself in the market. This week I am able to confirm that they are in fact here and looking very impressive.

Fresh Wild Mushrooms available at the time of writing are Ceps (Porcini), Yellow Chanterelles, Girolles, Pied De Mouton and Trompette. Both Ceps and Girolles are also available frozen.

Fruit of the Week

Italian Kiwi

Market Alert

  • All mainline Salad Leaves have now switched to either French, Italian or Spanish-grown imports. This includes the likes of Baby Leaf Salads and Baby Spinach. Furthermore, there are already reports from one of our buyers that both Cos Lettuce and Iceberg are in short supply in the market. She also reports that there are still issues with Baby Leaf being wet and Spinach in particular lacks the quality we strive to supply.

  • English Broccoli has finished and we are now reliant on what we can import from Spain, which itself has endured torrential rain and flooding in recent weeks.

  • English Flat Parsley has now finished and, at the time of writing, the majority of Coriander is now being imported from Spain. English Curly Parsley, on the other hand, seems still to be thriving because of its greater tolerance to the colder weather.

  • Heritage Tomatoes are currently in short supply and very expensive as a consequence.

  • The market availability of Pink Lady Apples is rather tight at present. We will swap to Pink Kiss which are the same apples, but do no carry the Pink Lady marketing trademark.

  • Ongoing Alert: The price of both Lemons and especially Limes remains high due to the fact that Brazil possesses all the available fruit and are making money while they can.

  • Ongoing Alert: The end of the Turkish season has meant that Fresh Figs have become so scarce as to have made it necessary to take them off sale. It is estimated that it will be at least another week until new season Brazilian replacements will start to arrive.

  • Ongoing Alert: The skin colour of both soon to finish Satsumas, and early season Clementines is still far from ideal, being rather pale and with a good proportion sporting a slight green patina or other slight defects. The taste is not affected, but there are no alternatives available unfortunately.

  • Green grapes are more difficult to obtain than red at the moment. Brazilian and Peruvian supplies are arriving with slightly withered stalks sue to their three week sea journey. The berries are still delicious, but compared to the European season that is just ending, the stalks look a little tired.