Asparagus is yet to hit its full stride, but there’s already plenty on the market:
It’s pricey, for sure, but that doesn’t worry Vernon Mascarenhas from First Choice, who quickly does the mental maths to calculate the quantity needed for a profitable £7.50 starter.
I met the chef supplier as he helped to guide visitors on an Experience Exotics tour.
To be honest, I get just as excited by the first arrivals of more familiar produce.
Peas and broad beans are now arriving thick and fast from the Continent, mainly Italy:
Blood oranges, foraged wild garlic and Yorkshire rhubarb remain abundant:
The first of this season’s edible flowers will add a splash of colour on a plate:
Ceps are in, too, to bolster the wild mushroom selection:
Don’t forget the more humble produce that’s also now at its best. Fennel, for example, is excellent both in terms of quality and price:
Other veg on good form includes purple sprouting, cabbages, kale, beetroot, parsnips, turnip and swede.
There’s also Pink Firs and indoor-grown Jersey Royals (see picture below) on hand:
Tomatoes are looking good, but wait a while yet for that sun-kissed sweet flavour to really shine through:
For fruit, it’s worth noting that English apples and pears are now over. (Might we soon have them all year round? Check our grower feature from last year).
The first English strawberries are joining Spanish supplies, but quality is not yet at its best. (“Nothing to write home about,” says Michael Barrett at H G Walker).
Raspberries, redcurrants, blackberries and blueberries are also available and imported.
Pomegranates, mangoes and pawpaw are a terrific buy. I even saw a few Turkish quinces around. Citrus is also strong this month, including leafy and unwaxed lemons.
South African plums, including yellow, are in full swing:
In terms of specialities, agretti (a.k.a. monks’ beard) is edging to an end. I saw the first green shiso leaves of the season. A lot of the micro leaves are now in rude health, as illustrated by this Sakurai Mix:
On my way out, I met Derek Kearey – a retired trader who once ran a stall on Rupert Street in the West End. He was greeting old friends.
“I’ve had a terrific life,” he said. “Every day was a lovely day – the whole atmosphere. I should have had to pay to come to work.”
See you in May for the next update. And as always, feel free to get in touch with any comments or questions.