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February 2012 – Market Report

tenderstem broccoli (vegetables category)

February, the month of cleansing and purification has arrived with a bang. Just as we were getting used to the milder weather, snow and freezing temperatures have reminded us what winter really should be like. The good news though is, as the saying goes, if February gives much snow, a fine summer it doth foreshow.
The cold snap has unfortunately driven up the price of many items, in particular salads like lollorosso, biondo and oak leaf, with spinach suffering most of all. Italy in particular is experiencing unprecedented levels of snow throughout the country which is making distribution to the UK difficult to say the least. As a result roquette prices have increased, although the quality remains good.
Courgettes and aubergines have been expensive for some time now but cucumbers should ease as the onset of the Dutch season increases supply. The price of Kenyan french beans though cannot be blamed on the cold but rather high December rainfall followed by unusually hot weather which has resulted in limited yields. Some herbs are also experiencing shortages with basil in particular proving difficult to source.
The Saxons knew February as the ‘sprout kale‘ month so were obviously interested in seasonality even in those days. At the moment we have green and purple (black Russian) kale to choose from, while spring greenssavoy and January king cabbages are also great buys.
Purple sprouting broccoli must be the star of the month though. Be aware though that these early varieties tend not to hold their colour after cooking. Barba di frate (monk’s beard) has arrived again this year too. We are now sourcing it from several senders so prices should be keener. Cime di rape is still going strong but expect puntarelle and brussel tops to finish soon.
Rainbow chard is now no longer available. Romanesco has been looking fantastic and makes a nice alternative to cauliflowerRoot vegetables are still the best bet at this time of year and our organic rainbow carrots are our greatest example. Our genuine Maris Piper chipping potatoes are also worthy of mention, especially as it’s national chip week between 20 and 26 February.
English forced rhubarb will welcome the cold weather and availability should improve as the month goes on. Blood oranges are now at their peak: dark and sumptuous and a real must buy at the moment. Seville oranges are still in stock which is just as well with national marmalade week starting on the 25 February.
Spanish strawberry season is now well under way and the quality is quite good, even though the berries are a little on the large size. All other berry fruit remains quite sensibly priced. Grapes are now coming from South Africa and have been nice. They are also sending us nectarinespeaches and apricots but they really are best avoided as the quality is poor. By comparison plums, both red and yellow, are great. English cox apples are now finishing up but there are still plenty of braeburn and russet to compensate. Bramleys for cooking are available, as always, (and yes it’s Bramley apple week from 5-12 February). European William pears are finishing up and we will shortly be moving on to cape pears.
Don’t forget to buy your loved one a rose on Valentine’s Day (14 February) ? we are eternally indebted to the humble rose as most of our fruit comes from the rose family. Also, make sure you get your lemons in for Pancake Day (21 February) and, lastly, don’t forget Kissing Friday (24 February): a long lost tradition that is surely due a revival.

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