Focus On… Italian Monks Beard

Italian Monks Beard

Monk’s beard, a seasonal favourite with chefs. This grass-like green vegetable originated from Tuscany. It is similar to samphire in appearance and taste but without the overwhelming saltiness that makes samphire such an acquired taste. Monk’s beard gets its name from the Cappuccino monks who were well known for growing the vegetable.
Monk’s beard has a very short season of approximately five weeks in the spring and while it is predominately grown in Tuscany it is also increasingly being grown in other parts of Italy and by specialist salad and vegetable growers in the United Kingdom and United States.
Monk’s beard is known as Barbe dei Frati in Italy and is also called goat’s beard in the United Kingdom.
When it is very young it is suitable to use in salads but it is perhaps best when lightly steamed and dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and freshly ground black pepper (and sea salt to taste) to produce a delicate side platter.

Fruit & Vegetable Market Report January 26th 2016

Fruit & Vegetable Market Report January 26th 2016

Where did January go to….

So we’re approaching February already and there’s already signs of Spring as we’ve had some Wild Garlic in already! This is also the time of year for Italian Monks Beard, quality is good but a little pricey. We have some lovely Purple Sporting Broccoli from A C Turner & Son in Essex but as there is limited supplies, prices are a little higher. English Cauliflowers are in short supply so we’re having to buy Spanish & French to fill the demand so prices are a little dearer. Spanish Broccoli is plentiful and prices are good. English and French Jerusalem Artichokes are excellent at the moment, Globe Chokes are reasonably priced too. AVOID Yellow Courgettes as their horrendously expensive. Hass Avocado’s are in short supply, so prices are up. There are limited supplies of English January King Cabbage available and quality and price is good.

No let up in the price of English Forced Rhubarb. Spanish Strawberries are better, but still suffering from ‘White Shoulders’. this is where to top part of the strawberry is white as opposed to being completely red. South African Grapes are up in price and may go higher. Honeydew Melons are up in price too and supply is very tight. Nardicotts are the preferred ‘easy peeler’ at the moment and come with leaf  at a premium. South African Peaches & Nectarines are best avoided, they look good but do not eat well, their Plums are good and both Red & Yellow are available.

Focus On… Seville Oranges

Seville Oranges

If your a chef that likes to make the most of seasonal food, now’s the time to make the most of the bitter tasting orange from the southern Spanish province of Seville. This prized knobbly looking fruit makes more than just top class Marmalade. Peeled strips of the aromatic zest can be dried in a cool oven and used to flavour stews, stir-fries or chutneys. The tart juice can replace lemons or lime juice in marinades and sauces. Even the pips can be put to use by putting them in muslin and adding it to jellies or jams for extra Pectin. This Citrus tree has other uses around the world too, the rootstock can be used to grow the sweeter varieties of orange, the fruit and leaves can be made into a lather and used in soap and the Cubans use the wood to make baseball bats. All that aside, I just think it makes a really good quality marmalade.

Fruit & Vegetable Market Report January 19th 2016

Fruit & Vegetable Market Report January 19th 2016

This time of year you need good hearty vegetables and the UK has some great choice, Savoy & Primo Cabbage are excellent and reasonably priced, Parsnips, Turnips, Carrots & Swede are all in their prime. Cauliflowers are more expensive this week, but Curly Kale a Purple Sprouting Broccoli are not to be missed and a good alternative. If looking for something a little different there are Baby Piccolo Parsnips and White/Orange Chantenay Carrots. Spanish Broccoli is reasonable and Courgettes have eased this week. Avocadoes remain dear so too is French Spinach.

Spanish & Moroccan Strawberries are available but are best avoided at present as they are just not good enough. Cantaloupe Melons are more expensive as we move from Brazilian to Costa Rican, Galia Melons are reasonable though. Apricots are available, so too are Cherries, but the latter is poor quality and expensive. Seville & Blood Oranges are still around. And finally, new season Forced Yorkshire Rhubarb prices remain high.