For me, the arrival of the first chestnuts at work is the sign that autumn is finally upon us. The delivery of the first batch from France this week means that summer is over without having actually begun, but at least the chestnuts are hugely impressive. They are as big as I have ever seen them, and they will soon be followed by the Italian variety. Walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts and brazil nuts are also now in stock.
The first of the kaki (persimmons) have arrived as hard as rock so the best advice is to put them in a plastic bag with someapples to help them ripen or alternatively wait until the ready-ripened ones arrive. Kaki must be eaten when they are almost too soft to pick up and the skin is breaking. Custard apples are also here now and both these and the nuts make a great addition to your office fruit bowls.
Squashes of all shapes and sizes are in abundance too with the butternut, spaghetti and acorn featuring prominently among the many other varieties. Marrows and shapely green and yellow courgettes are also looking good and taste best when stuffed and baked.
We have various coloured carrots in stock at the moment with yellow, blood, purple and rainbow accompanying our more usual English orange variety. Did you know that the carrot eaten in Engand was originally purple until the Dutch popularised the orange variety in keeping with their national colours.
Also available are quinces which are perfectly in season at the moment and cronses (pronounced crones) have just started to arrive. They are on the more expensive side but the price will come down shortly.
Celeriac, parsnips, turnips and swedes are all improving in flavour and price and French Jerusalem artichokes have arrived in great condition with the smaller English variety to follow shortly. Brussel tops are a seasonal treat well worth trying – strip the leaves from the stalk, wash and cook in a steamer for a few minutes, drain, toss in butter and season to taste – as are the newly-arrived turnip tops (cima di rappa), which are one of my favorite greens. As mentioned in my mid-monthly report purple sprouting broccoli and curly kale are all good buys.
On the fruit side European peaches, nectarines and plums should all be coming to an end soon. So far, though, they are still surprisingly good. Spanish okitua satsumas have arrived and are not too sharp. English conference pears are beginning to taste nice just now, as are cox’s apples. Don’t forget its apple day on October 21. English raspberries continue to delight and the season seems to last longer every year. Grape prices have been on the up and we expect them to be a bit hit and miss towards the end of the month.
As always happens when we move from the Dutch to the Spanish growing season prices have been on the rise, especially when it comes to tomatoes. Beef and plum are extortionate but we have some arriving direct from Sicily which should be better value before prices ease at the end of the month.
Finally, here are a couple of dates for this month’s diary: British summer time ends on October 26 and the clocks go back an hour. October 31 is Halloween so look out for our pumpkin specials nearer the date.