Total Produce November Market Report
This month is all about orchard fruit. Apples, pears and quinces are all at their best. Supplies from Spain come into their own with the first new season citrus and the first salads that will see us through the winter months.
It’s peak pear time in the UK and that mostly means Conference, the classic British pear. First raised by by nurseryman Thomas Francis Rivers in Hertfordshire in 1885, Conference are without doubt Britain’s most popular pear. Between 80 and 90 percent of the pears grown in this country are Conference with most of the rest made up by Doyenne Du Comice. Now these are both very fine pears and in excellent shape this month. The Conference is probably better suited to pastry as it is less fragile than the Comice but the Comice arguably has a better flavour.
Of course there are lots of other pears. The National Fruit Collection at Brogdale in Kent has over 500 different varieties, but it is the Conference that has come to dominate the market. If you’d like to know more about British pears then there’s a recent episode of BBC Radio 4’s excellent Food Programme on this very subject available on iPlayer. If you’re really, really keen on pears then you might want to get hold of a copy of the recently published Book Of Pears by Dr Joan Morgan. Nigel Slater describes it as awesome and we wholeheartedly agree.
OTHER TOP FRUIT
In other top fruit news British apples are, well, tip top. Current favourites are Coxes of course, along with Russets, Gala and Bramley and we might well see the first home grown Braeburn towards the end of the month.
Another autumnal orchard fruit that may well have a place on your November menus is the quince. Some quinces are grown in the UK but most of our supply is from somewhere rather warmer like Provence or Turkey.
The European citrus season runs through the winter months and there’s already a fair supply of top notch citrus from growers in southern Europe, mostly Spain.
The first Spanish lemons arrived towards the end of last month. Currently prices are still comparable with the southern hemisphere stuff that preceded them but they’ll get cheaper in the next few weeks as we move further into the season and volumes increase.
On the easy peeler front there’s already a fair few satsumas and quite a lot of clementines, with or without leaves. Most of these are from Spain but there are a few pitching up from Italy.
The first Spanish oranges will be with us any day now and there’s still some very decent oranges from tail end of the southern hemisphere season still knocking around.
There’s new crop pink and white grapefruit from Turkey and pomelos from China, not European but very definitely in season.
If you’re looking for something a bit more esoteric then what about the Bergamot from Calabria in Southern Italy. Originally used for perfumes and to flavour Early Grey tea Bergamots are cropping up on more and more restaurant menus. They’re not the easiest fruit to get hold of so you’ll probably have to give your supplier a day or two to hunt them down.
Colder weather and shorter days mean the end of the British salad season and so we look to supplies from further south to see us through the winter. For the next 4 or 5 months Spanish growers will be our main source of gem, iceberg, cos, peppers, cucumbers and, to an extent, tomatoes. Southern France has its part to play, Provence and Roussillon will be where we get most of oak leaf, batavia, red & white rosso and frisée. Then there’s the winter chicories, trevise and tardivo from Italy, pisenlit from France, red and white chicory from Holland and that perennial favourite the radicchio. Worth mentioning that red chicory can be very expensive so always check the price before committing to menu.
Turkish figs will finish by the middle of this month. After that it’s airfreight only with the inevitable rise in price.
Purple sprouting broccoli and sprout tops, two very fine home-grown brassicas that are well worth considering this month. In her seminal Vegetable Book Jane Grigson writes that purple sprouting is ‘as near to a fine vegetable as brassicas ever get’ and we second that emotion. Sprout tops are one of the most delicious of all winter greens, not always the easiest vegetable to lay your hands on but well worth the effort.