SEASONAL PRODUCE NEWS – MARCH 2017
Winter stores of home-grown root crops and frost-hardy brassicas have sustained us through the cold months. By April unpicked Brassicas start to bolt and home-grown leeks which have grown through winter develop a hard core. The arrival of March brings thoughts of Spring and longing for a change in the food we put on our tables. While the new planting season gets under way here in the UK we harvest the first vibrant spears of Purple Sprouting Broccoli, and the white version, from plants grown all winter long.
This means our focus for March turns more intensely to southern Europe, specifically Italy, France and Spain whose milder temperatures give the farmers a head-start over our own growers. The warmer climes produce the first of our supplies of deliciously sweet peas, tender broad beans, pungent wild garlic leaves and juicy wet garlic, heralding the start of harvests from the new growing year and propelling us into spring.
At the beginning of March here at Puntarelle & Co there are still:
Vitamin and mineral packed Italian Spinach and Chard that have been arriving reliably all through winter. English-grown Jerusalem Artichokes store well and so continue to be available, as do Beetroot, Turnips, Swede, Celeriac, Kohlrabi, Potatoes and Carrots.Home grown Leeks, which are happy in cold ground, are still coming in from the fields.Deliciously bitter Radicchio and Chicory of all kinds, including Puntarelle are with us for a little while longer, as is Cima di Rapa, all from Italy.Large, weighty Purple Aubergines continue to arrive from Italy, later to be joined by smaller, firm new season varieties.Crunchy, juicy Agretti/Monk’s Beard is still around too, an excellent accompaniment to fish or simply blanched and tossed in anchovy butter.Spiky Artichokes from Sardinia have given way to easier to handle new season Green and Purple Globe Artichokes and their egg-sized ‘babies’. Providing tasty Tomatoes through winter is a challenge but the green seasonal Marinda and salty, crunchy Camone are welcome, and they are at their best now. By the end of the month we hope to have some tasty new season hot-house varieties arriving.
December through February our Arch has been brightened by the vibrant pink stalks of Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb. Conditions have been good for growing so supplies have been plentiful. From an eating point of view too, it has been a very good year. Having reached their peak, now, when the stalks are a little thicker and darker pink, it is tasting its best. Later in the year we will have outdoor-grown rhubarb too.
We are very proud of our Citrus, much of it directly sourced from Sicily. Crates of Leafy Lemons, juicy Navel Oranges, and Tarocco with their blushed skins and flesh have been arriving since December, later joined by red-fleshed Moro blood oranges. We will continue to have these into March, and hopefully some Mandarins and Kumquats. We’d love to be able to say we’ll have Sicilian citrus for the whole of March, as we did last year, but bad weather has affected the harvests and picking is almost over in Sicily. We may not be able to offer you so much Sicilian citrus in March but we will have the best available citrus varieties at market.
So, what new season produce can we expect in March (weather permitting)?
Broad Beans (Fava) and Peas from Italy.The first of the Wet Garlic from Egypt, France and Italy until the English arrives.Artichokes, both Globe and tender Piccolo.Green Broccoli direct from Sicily early in March, before vibrant spears of English Purple Sprouting Broccoli, and White Sprouting Broccoli follow. Asparagus, both the wispy, wild variety and the cultivated from Italy are already here. Pungent English Wild Garlic Leaves are in as I write this, along with stimulating, iron-rich spring Nettles from France. Asparagus from Italy, both the wispy, tender wild variety and the cultivated have begun to arrive. By late March, we expect Bruscandoli from Italy before our English Hop Shoots start to appear in April.Pale green Italian Courgettes are here along with deep red, crunchy Tropea Onions.
In March too, expect the first of the Jersey Royal Potatoes and the French Ile de Ré and Noirmoutier Potatoes, coastal-grown roots that bring a welcome rush of earthy salinity at this time of year. Spring onions should start to arrive this month.Early fragrant Candonga Strawberries have arrived from Southern Italy beating the Gariguette Strawberries from France this year. We expect the first Morel Mushrooms from Canada this month. We also hope to get Sea Kale from Scotland (to order).
Some good news on prices at last is that the cost of Aubergines, Broccoli, Courgettes and Peppers from southern Europe are back to normal after a few weeks of increased costs.
NEW on our shelves:
We have selected some jars of quality Mediterranean Anchovies from producers in Sciacca in south-west Sicily. The smaller jars of plain anchovies are delicate and subtle in flavour. If you prefer something more assertive, we have larger jars of their anchovies in spicy oil.
If you need a little inspiration for what to cook in March, here’s a suggestion:
Pasta with Wild Garlic (Serves 4)
300g dried pasta (ribbon pastas or Spaghetti or Linguine)
80g (3oz) unsalted butter
2handfuls of wild garlic, well washed and roughly chopped
Good olive oil and salt and pepper to season
Bring a large pan of water to the boil then salt the water well. With the water at a fierce boil, add the pasta and stir. Return the water to the boil and cook at a lively pace according to the cooking instructions.
While the pasta is cooking, heat the butter gently in large pan and add the washed and chopped garlic leaves, salt and pepper. Cook for a minute or two then take the pan off the heat. Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the water, and add the cooked pasta to the buttery garlic leaves. Mix in about 50mlof cooking water to loosen slightly. Serve with plenty of grated parmesan and some good olive oil to season.
This recipe works well with spinach or chard leaves too. You could use Asparagus or Hop Shoots instead so long as you blanch the vegetables first.