Each month we ask Charlie Hicks, fruit and veg supremo at Total Produce, for his produce picks of the season
Apocalyptic weather right across mainland Europe has virtually wiped out the imported salads and vegetables that we rely on so heavily at this time of year. The media is full of stories about how we’re running out of veg which is nonsense. There’s still plenty of very good home-grown winter produce including the Savoy, surely the finest of all our winter cabbage. Even sweeter after a frost and excellent finely shredded and eaten raw, the Savoy is a key ingredient for all winter menus.
South West growers have always been renowned for their splendid brassicas, think of Cornish cauliflowers and greens, and perhaps the most exciting of these is the wonderful romanesco. Relatively new to us the romanesco, a type of broccoli, originated in Italy at least 400 years ago, which makes it a true heritage vegetable. With its glorious fractal form, vivid green colouring, crisp texture and mild, nutty flavour romanesco is a fine addition to any winter menu.
We grow magnificent apples in this country and the season is in full flow this month. Some of the country’s very best apple growers are in the South West so you should have no problem getting hold of a wide range of really top notch fruit that is grown locally to you.
The harvest finishes in November (the last variety to be picked is usually Braeburn) but modern storage techniques mean that UK apples are available until well into the new year.
September is the month for British sweetcorn. There’s cobs coming in from growers right across the South West, just a little bit later this year because of the rather poor summer.
There’s been a quite extraordinary growth in sweetcorn sales in the past few years, we just seem to get can’t get enough of it. Not surprisingly really, a delicious and versatile vegetable that offers that magical combination of quality and value. A late summer menu must.
August is plum time in the UK and, arguably, the best of them all is the wonderful greengage. There may be prettier plums but the greengage wins out for flavour, intense and heady, almost floral. The market is dominated by supplies from France, mostly the Reine Claude variety, but we are seeing more and more gages from British growers. These are generally harvested riper and therefore taste better. It might take a bit of work but British gages really are worth tracking down.
There’s been a real renaissance in British cherries in the past few years, an almost tenfold increase since 2000.
This is mostly down to the introduction of new dwarf varieties. These shorter cherry trees can be grown in poly tunnels which protect the fruit from the elements – cherries hate rain – and are a lot easier to harvest, no more ladders.
The rather brief season usually starts in July and finishes in September so do make the most of them.