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March 2012 – Market Report

asparagus tips closeup

There’s plenty to cheer with the onset of March. Mad as it may seem the first of this year’s English asparagus is here and as always the quality is superb. We have also seen the arrival of another native delight, Jersey royal mids and ware. Now while I know you just can’t wait to get your hands on these treasures, both the asparagus and jerseys are quite pricey at the moment and my advice would be to wait until next month when the prices should ease.
Cheaper and equally as rewarding, wild garlic is now available. If there is anything that reminds me of spring then this is it and it is a must-have on menus this month. Two of last month’s joys, blood oranges and forced rhubarb are still going strong and I would say are an even better buy now.
Wet garlic has started arriving from Egypt and fresh broad beans and peas are now coming through from Morocco. Italian Barba di Frate is still available whilst the French have started sending us some truly excellent white asparagus (English growers, pull your fingers out and start growing it!) and the first of this year’s nettles.
Purple sprouting broccoli has been fantastic quality so far this year and this should continue throughout March. Cauliflowers are down in price and Romanesco is providing a nice alternative. Normally at this time of the season potato prices start to creep up but this year a good harvest has led to an oversupply and prices, if anything, are falling.
Salads are proving to be very difficult at the moment with quality on the patchy side and prices quite high. Raddicchiocos lettuce and flat parsley seem to be suffering the most. Capsicum and cucumber prices keep fluctuating but with the onset of the Dutch growing season prices should stabilise.
On the tomato front, we have to go back to Italy to find anything flavoursome. San marzano and vine are the best choice, whilst merinda and baby san marzano are available to order. From Sardinia we have a new variety called camone with a distinctly salty flavour.
Spanish strawberries and raspberries continue to be good value. Wild strawberries have made an appearance from Spain too (48 hours notice on these). Garigueete strawberries from France have also eased in price. Melon prices are now reasonable, Moroccan charantais probably being the best bet but for those with deeper pockets we have the super, super wonderful charantais melons from the Dominican Republic (yes that’s right, doubly super!).
Other highlights this month are the fragrant alphonso mangoes (should be in stock by the time you read this), moscatel grapebaby kiwis and there are some quite pretty looking black figs around as well.
Lemons and limes continue to be inexpensive and if kumquats are your thing then now is the time to do what you do with them! What do you do with kumquats?
Dates to remember this month are Mothers’ Day on 18 March, which also happens to be Sumnel Sunday (get baking those Sumnel cakes!), British Summer Time begins on 25 March (clocks go forward an hour), and 31 March is Oranges and Lemons day… or so say the bells of St Clement’s.

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