December is always buzzing on the markets - three weeks of adrenaline before a well-earned break. Here's the latest low-down from our buyers in France and Italy.
Fresh from Rungis
Our buyer Nick says: "Salads and spinach are in full swing, up from the South of France. Prices are stable and quality is excellent. The rain in Spain has stayed mainly on the citrus fruit orchards making clementines a bit short at the moment and the same will be true for Spanish oranges.
Apples and pears are all good quality and not expensive. The wax-tipped Passe-Crassane pears have started. Fresh chestnuts are coming to an end, but there are plenty of vac-packed available. Wet walnuts too are virtually finished but lots of dry about including some organic in bags. Brittany artichokes are ending, but Spanish are cheap and no compromise in quality. There are some lovely baby Ratte potatoes in hessian bags - we had them on our Christmas dinner table last year, roasted under the goose in the fat that dripped down off the bird - delicious!"
Other recent lines include amazing Ariane apples, fresh yuzu, Gariguette strawberries, purple sprouting, kales, oca from Peru and Soldive melons from Senegal.
Fresh from Milan
Our buyer Tess says: "We have the first peas and broad beans coming into London. Catalogna Spigarta (we know as Punterella), Catalogna Normale (chicoria), Chima di Rappe, big chubby Punterella and long Chicoria are in full swing. In the last week the first pink radicchio came in in small numbers. Tomatoes are coming into their own with better sizes and colours. In the next week or so, expect the first Barba di Frappe (a.k.a Agretti / Monks Beard).
We have good leafy oranges and leafy clems. In another month or so we'll be starting the blood orange season with the first Moro. The blushing is dependent on the weather being cold.
Lots of Italian chestnuts all different sizes and walnuts. In the market they sell a type cake or flan made with chestnuts - a famous seasonal dish for them. Milan is now quite cold and they have had a lot of rain. We're waiting to see if there is a knock on effect on the produce."
Other recent lines include bergamot, cedro, dill, rosemary, and baby Rainbow chard.
ESC Direct is our bespoke, whole-pallet only wholesale service. Gaëlle - our ESC Direct buyer - sources direct from Brittany, Provence, Spain, Morocco and elsewhere. Produce is collated and quality-checked by our Rungis team, before being delivered throughout the UK, bypassing the London markets if clients are based outside them.
Gaëlle says: "Aubergines, cucumbers, courgettes and salads in general are currently short from Spain due to the bad weather. However, the price of peppers is going down and volumes are increasing. Most Moroccan produce has started such as broad beans, coco, tomatoes and peppers. Portuguese Muscade is still available. Cauliflower, Savoy and Romanesco are available from Spain and France although price are still strong on the caulis. Spanish iced broccoli is in full season. Colored caulis from Spain shall start in the next few weeks - the French season is now over till next June. From France, the coloured carrots, beetroots, Jerusalem chokes, shallots and banana shallots are all available."
No-one beats Ponthier for chestnuts. Their range is top-notch, including these bestselling 400g vacuum packs. We love the fact that they are prepared with zero added chemicals, additives or preservatives - it's a 100% natural product. They are also gluten free.
You can heat them up by immersing the packs in boiling water for 5 minutes. Or pierce the bag and heat in the microwave for 2 minutes at maximum power.
Chestnuts are a classic ingredient in stuffings. For a bar snack, try roasting them in a hot oven and sprinkling with sea salt. The nuts are a lovely accompaniment to game, roast meats and even fish. Ponthier suggests a recipe roast fillet of cod meuniere with chestnuts, softened leeks and mushrooms with champagne - very decadent! Another of their tips is roast chicken with chestnuts and white wine with fine-spice pumpkin puree. A Picture restaurant in London they sometimes serve an amazing dish of ravioli with quartered baby Brussel sprouts and beurre noisette. They sneak a layer of chestnut puree to the bottom of the bowl, which adds a lovely subtle sweetness to each mouthful.
Did you know you can sign up to automatically receive our monthly market reports? Go to the bottom of our homepage and enter your details.
EUROPEAN SALAD COMPANY, UNIT C53-54, NEW COVENT GARDEN MARKET, LONDON, SW8 5BH TEL: 020 7720 7758 ORDERS@EUROSALAD.CO.UK