One of the first signs that spring is all but upon us is when the air surrounding the shady deciduous woodlands of Britain becomes infused with the heady scent of Ramsons - the Old English name for Wild Garlic. It’s most often the case that Ramsons wouldn’t normally come into season until around mid-March, but the mild winter and warmer than usual February has caused them to appear several weeks earlier. Ramsons are a feral relative of the Chive and possess triangular stems to which are attached leaves that are similar to those of Lily of the Valley, but with a distinctly garlicky aroma and taste. The leaves can be used in a variety of ways, such as raw in salads, gently roasted, briefly steamed or boiled, as an ingredient in soups and pestos, or to add flavour to sauces and dressings. Having only just come into season, there aren’t a lot of them to be had; however, the buyer who first spotted them quite soon after their arrival reckons it shouldn’t be too long before volumes increase significantly and we’ll be in a position to start offering them for sale.
Despite having received news that Savoy Cabbage is currently in short supply, it still very much appeared to be a fairly strong presence in the market judging by what I witnessed for myself during my last visit there a mere few days ago. Furthermore, every example on display was of exceptionally good quality. All that said, such warnings shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand simply because they don’t quite square with what I saw with my own eyes, and with this in mind it might be wise to at least consider substituting them with either January King which, as you can hopefully glean from the picture, is quite similar in size, shape and structure to savoy, but whose inner-leaves are smoother, squeakier, perhaps slightly less crinkly and possesses the most amazing red, blue and purple colouration. Consider also pointy-headed Hispi (Sweetheart) Cabbage, which had been quite scarce the last few weeks but, thanks to a recent influx of new season crops from Portugal, is now more abundant. Hispi has a milder flavour than either Savoy or January King and its leaf structure is not dissimilar to Spring Greens, making it particularly well suited for steaming or shredding and sautéing.
English Purple Sprouting Broccoli is superb at present. Flat Beans are still thriving, as are Broad Beans and Bobby Beans (the thicker, meatier alternative to Fine Beans).
After a hiatus of about a couple of months, French Brittany Prince Heritage Tomatoes are back in the market – but supplies are currently very limited and prices very high, so be patient and wait maybe another couple of weeks before requesting them.
You now have a choice of either Brazilian Green Figs or Peruvian Black Figs – just specify which you’d prefer when placing your order.
Aside from its devastating effect on human health, another consequence of the outbreak of the Coronavirus in China has been a structural one, namely the disruption caused to the free flow of goods and services. It’s as yet still hard to guess what the long-term outcome might be with regard to produce across the board, but in the short term we can at least predict that the availability of Garlic and Ginger, for which we rely heavily on China as the main provider, will become scarcer and more expensive. In fact, although any actual shortages of these two products have yet to become apparent, their market price has already started to creep up in anticipation of shortages still to come. We will of course keep you informed of any further developments, and be further assured that our excellent team of buyers will endeavour to do everything they can to source whatever possible alternatives might be available to them.
Fruit of the Week
Ongoing Alert: Poor weather conditions in certain growing regions of Spain, Italy and Morocco is expected to have an impact on the availability and/or quality of much of the produce we rely on at this time of year. This including Aubergines, Broccoli, Courgettes, Cucumbers, Capsicums, Medium Salad Tomatoes, Baby Leaves, Cos, Iceberg and Gem Lettuces, as well as some Citrus Fruits.
Ongoing Alert: English Potato crops are continuing to suffer the affects brought about by water-logged fields and reduced harvesting as a consequence of record-breaking levels of rainfall over the last couple of months.
Ongoing Alert: The availability of Pineapples remains tight and their price expensive as a consequence.
Ongoing Alert: The market price of Bramley Apples remains high.
Curly Kale is very scarce at present. Growers are limiting us on the quantities they will supply. There maybe a lack of supply altogether by April.
Spanish Lemons are currently looking a bit scarred and scruffy, but the fruit inside should still be good.
The quality and availability of both Peaches and Nectarines is currently a bit unpredictable.
Ongoing Alert: The availability of White Grapes remains tight and their quality variable.
Ongoing Alert: Yellow Courgettes remain very expensive.
Ongoing Alert: Colder weather in the UK has meant that Bananas are taking longer to ripen once they arrive here.
Ongoing Alert: Plum Tomatoes and Plum Vine Tomatoes are still experiencing market shortages at present.
Ongoing Alert: English Spring Greens are in very short supply.
Ongoing Alert: Onions are still in short supply and expensive as a result.