The first month of meterological Spring is always the most unpredictable time of year. At this time in 2018 I wrote of snow falling in London and bad weather in southern Europe. In 2019 the last week of February saw record high temperatures in the UK, peeking at a scarily high 20+C. A clear illustration of the spring’s volatility. But whatever the daytime temperatures, night temperatures and light levels play a part. Crops don’t grow quickly at this time of year and it’s a quiet time for our home-grown crops.
We look mainly to southern Europe for fruit and vegetables to supplement our slow-growing winter Greens and Root crops. Tender Artichokes, juicy mineral Agretti and crisp Fennel are examples of what we expect from Italy. Crunchy Marinda and Camone Tomatoes still fill the gap until sun-ripened ones arrive. Citrus continues and, usually, the first new season Wet Garlic Bulbs arrive from Morocco followed by bulbs from Europe. From Italy, the first of the Broad Beans, Peas and palest-green Spring Courgettes. Citrus, including Amalfi Lemons, Tarocco Oranges and Common Mandarins continue to arrive from Italy.
Here is a taster of the things you can expect to find here at Puntarelle & Co in the month of March:
British Brassicas including Savoy Cabbage, green and purple hued January King, blistered-leaved Black Cabbage/Cavolo Nero, Kale, Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Kohlrabi.
For Roots, which store well, there are Jerusalem Artichokes, Beetroot, Turnips, Swede, Celeriac, Potatoes and Carrots. Leeks are still come in from the fields.
Yorkshire Forced Rhubarb is reaching its peak. Its stalks are a little thicker and more deeply coloured now, and are tasting at their best.
Untreated Italian Citrus in the form of Leafy and Amalfi Lemons, juicy Tarocco Oranges and sweet Mandarins. Bergamots and Cedro make an appearance.
Broad Beans, Fresh Peas, Wild Asparagus, cultivated Purple Asparagus from European climes.
Broccolo Fiolare (Minestra Cabbage) and Broccolo di Bassano from Italy.
Time to start looking out for punnets of fragrant Candonga Strawberries from Italy and Gariguette Strawberries from France.
There is vitamin and mineral packed Italian Spinach and Chard and colourful bitter-leaved heads of Radicchio. There’s Puntarelle Chicory and Cime di Rapa too.
Crunchy, juicy Agretti/Monk’s Beard continues, an excellent accompaniment to fish or simply blanched and tossed in anchovy butter.
Spiky Sardinian Artichokes, globes of Romaneschi Artichokes, medium-sized Tema Artichokes and the small purple Petit Violet Artichokes.
Pale green Italian Courgettes and crunchy red Tropea Onions from Italy.
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.
Look out for the first Jersey Royal Potatoes and the French Ile de Ré and Noirmoutier Potatoes. All coastal-grown roots that bring a welcome rush of earthy salinity at this time of year.
Spring Radishes arrive, usually the first are from France along with crunchy small Grelot Onions.
March could see the first Morel Mushrooms - usually the first come from Canada, followed by Turkish ones.
Short season Wild Garlic Leaves arrive this month, and the first Wet Garlic from Morocco before the French crop.
Stimulating, iron-rich spring Nettles could arrive from France soon, possibly before the end of the month.
Right now our seasonal Water Kefirs take advantage of the fantastic late winter fruits that are coming through our doors. Flavours include Yorkshire Rhubarb, Blood Orange and Wonder Mandarin. As those of you who are familiar with our Water Kefirs know, there is much more to them than their beautiful jewel-like colours. Apart from being delicious, these unpasteurised fermented drinks bring beneficial micro-organisms, B vitamins, minerals and enzymes in a slightly sour, zingy, low-sugar form. More about our range of Fermented products at: www.londonfermentary.com