They say that March is the month of expectation and I couldn’t agree more, we are so close to many mouthwatering treats but they are not quite ready yet.
There are, however, a number of intriguing new and early arrivals, not least Jersey Royal potatoes (both mids and ware) or superbly scented wild garlic (ramsons) which is available in 250g packets. Purple sprouting broccoli has also made its belated entrance and looks to be really good quality this year.
The recent frosts have made it quite difficult for our brassica growers, with shortages in cauliflower and broccoli expected to push their prices up. The recent high price of aubergines, however, has peaked and is now falling, while capsicum pepper prices remain high with green being the most expensive.
There is also upward pressure on avocados, expect them to get quite pricy this month. Root vegetables remain good value, parsnips, swedes and Jerusalem artichokes being the best bet. Potato prices are also starting to surge, which is quite normal for this time of year. Black cabbage has finished but there is plenty of spring green and hispy cabbage about. Leeks and courgettes are also great at the moment and represent good value.
Tomatoes are still coming from Spain but, nice though they look, lack flavour, unlike Sicilian cherry vine tomatoes, which are still the tastiest find. For the more adventurous, we do have some beautiful chocolate tomatoes from Syria in stock.
All salads have come down in price since last month with my favorite at the moment being the radicchio castelfranco. There is still some barba di frate around as well as sea kale to order.
English braeburn apples are still going strong but we are now sourcing our pears from further afield. Grapes are now arriving from Chile rather than South Africa, which should see prices fall, Clems are now finished and we have moved on to mandoras, which are not so easy to peel but are at least juicy. Blood oranges are also now in their prime.
We have some fantastic tasting mangoes this month, which are as cheap as chips. Plums, both red and yellow, are the best bet when it comes to stone fruit and galia and cantaloupe melons are also tasting great. Not to be missed are the Spanish strawberries this year, which are a vast improvement on last season, they are firm and red and bursting with flavour.
One of the cheapest goods on the market at present are lemons, which is just as well with Pancake Day upon us this Tuesday, 8 March. So there is no excuse not to eat as many of them possible.
Other dates to remember are 17 March, which is St Patrick’s Day, and 27 March, when the clocks go forward one hour.