Total Produce December Market Report
Christmas can be a rather stressful time for all those who work in food. Here’s our round-up of some of the key items that just might help you through the mayhem.
The European citrus season is in full flow and there’s an plenty of very good, sensibly priced fruit. Most of it from Spain but citrus growers in Southern France and Italy are doing their bit.
Spanish Navel oranges are excellent although some of the larger sizes may be a bit thin on the ground.
On the easy peeler front there’s satsumas and clementines with or without leaves. The origins of the various varieties are rather confusing and there’s a whole raft of theories.
The first easy peeler to reach Europe and American was probably the mandarin or tangerine which came to us from China in the mid 19thC. We don’t see an awful lot of tangerines these days as they are full of seeds. If you do come across tangerines they may well be green skinned. Don’t let this put you off, the flesh inside will be orange and will taste quite wonderful.
Satsumas probably originated in China but have been grown in Japan for many hundreds of years and that is where they got their current name. Satsuma being an old Japanese province right on the tip of the southern island.
Clementines were originally thought to be an accidental hybrid, probably a Seville tangerine cross, that were discovered by Father Clement Rodier in the garden of an Algerian orphanage about a hundred years ago. In the 1950’s along came Japanese botanist Tanaka who said no, they are a separate species that originated much earlier in Asia. Then in the 1960’s French botanist M. Chabot stated that the clementine is from China where it’s known as the Canton Mandarin. So take your pick, either way the Clementine is the true taste of Christmas.
There’s something particularly festive about the pomegranate’s gorgeous jewel like seeds which bring a welcome blast of sunshine to the gloomier months. The markets are currently awash with Spanish and Turkish pomegranates which are generally decent value. If you’re looking for a touch of the exotic on your menu then do consider the pomegranate.
Brussel Sprouts, the classic Xmas vegetable, come in various forms. There’s regular sprouts in bags, fancy sprouts on sticks, purple sprouts and, best of all, prepared sprouts ready for the pot. Prepared sprout may cost a little more than regular sprouts but the time they’ll save you more than makes up for that. Also worth a mention are sprout tops, a hugely underrated winter green that is both delicious and inexpensive, best part of the plant really.
Carrots often feature on Christmas menus and we reckon best choice by far is the Chantenay. They gloriously intense carrot flavour and come thoroughly washed so pretty much pot ready. Originally a fairly obscure French variety the Chantenay were first grown commercially in the UK by Freshgro in Nottinghamshire who had scoured the world in search of a carrot with real, old fashioned carrot flavour. Chantenay come in a range of very festive colours, so perfect on an Xmas plate. There’s more about Freshgro Chantenay in the growers section of our website.
Most of the fresh chestnuts in our markets are from China which is not as odd as it might first seem. The Chinese have been cultivating chestnuts for even longer than they’ve been growing rice, maybe 6000 years, and are by far the world’d biggest producer. The varieties grown in China are much more resistant to the various diseases that have done such damage to European and American chestnut trees. Also worth mentioning that they come by boat, so a very low carbon footprint.
However if you feel that life’s too short to peel a chestnut then the vac pac ready peeled chestnuts from France are a life saver at this time of year.
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