Total Produce May Market Report – What’s In Season This Month
May is usually the month when spring and early summer produce really gets going but this year unseasonably cold weather is rather slowing things up. And not just in the UK, colder weather is affecting growers right across Europe.
The British asparagus season officially started at the end of April but asparagus is very sensitive to climate and early May frosts have had quite an impact on supply. If the soil temperature drops below about 10F asparagus stops growing altogether. The warmer it gets the more asparagus there will be (and vice versa). The British asparagus season runs till the end of June so, with a bit of sunshine, asparagus should be on menus everywhere for the next couple of months. As well as the usual green asparagus there are limited supplies of some rather lovely white and purple varieties. Your local depot may need a bit of notice to get hold of these for you.
Plenty of sensibly priced peas & broad beans coming in from Spain and Italy, the UK crop should start towards the end of next month. A few early borlotti beans are arriving from Italy.
There’s already a fair supply of British lettuces and leaves from under glass and once it warms up a bit the first outdoor crops should be ready for cutting later this month. British watercress is in fine form, it really comes in to its own in May. Apparently watercress has huge health benefits (doesn’t almost everything?) but what we really love about this marvellous leaf is its glorious peppery flavour. In recent times watercress has been rather overshadowed by upstart imports like rocket, mizuna, tatsoi and that weird one that tastes of potatoes. We’ve been cultivating watercress for over 200 years though and it’s about time this wonderful salad underwent the renaissance it truly deserves. There’s already decent supplies of British cucumbers and spring onions as well as a few early British radishes. Good to see spring onions cropping up on more and more menus, fashionably charred or otherwise.
Early peaches and nectarines have been arriving from from Spain and Morocco since the beginning of the month and the first apricots, plums and cherries won’t be far behind. Word is that it’s not going to be a terrific season for European stone fruit, unexpectedly late frosts did quite a bit of damage. Do remember that early season fruit can be on the dear side and sometimes rather underwhelming. Produce tends to be at its best, and best value, in the middle of the season.
Supplies of European apples and pears, stored from last autumn’s harvest, are pretty much at and end and so we look to supplies from the Southern Hemisphere. Currently there’s a range of apples from New Zealand (Royal Gala, Cox, Pink Lady and Jazz) and pears from South Africa (Packhams and Williams). Quality is generally excellent, you wouldn’t bother sending rubbish half way round the world, and because most of their journey is by boat the impact on the environment is kept to a minimum.
The next couple of months will be a tricky time for lemons. Over in Spain Primofiori lemons have come to a close and and up next is the Verna, a late variety. It seems that every third year the Verna lemon has a rather poor season and this is that third year.There’s also a problem with limes which are unusually expensive and in short supply due to persistent poor weather in Brazil.Much brighter news on the orange front. The Spanish citrus season is finishing up and so we lookto supplies from Cyprus and Egypt, particularly the Cypriot Red Seal Brand Valencia Lates. These are from the Phassouri Plantations in south west Cyprus where they have been growing very fine oranges since 1933.
British outdoor rhubarb is finally with us after a rather late start (weather again). The best of it is blanched or forced, usually by growing it under black polythene to exclude light. This means the rhubarb has a wonderfully vibrant pink colour, a more tender texture and less of the teeth aching sourness that can sometimes affects the outdoor crop. Top stuff and top value too.
There’s more and more British strawberries arriving in the markets and we expect the first British raspberries by the end of the month. Gooseberries, hopefully, should be along in early June. As ever supplies of British soft fruit are dependent on the weather, keep watching the skies.
We have had excellent artichokes from growers in Spain for a couple of months and the Brittany crop should start soon. Their splendid Petit Violet and and larger varieties like Camus and Calico are a fine addition to any spring and early summer menu.