In Season: December
Yellow Plums should be back on sale early in December from South Africa and are likely to be a variety which goes by the name of October Sun. They’re usually about 6 to 6.5cm in diameter with a pinkish-orange blush and pale yellow flesh that is soft, juicy, fairly grainy in texture and possessing a flavour that is pleasantly sweet with very little acidity. New season South African Red Plums should start trickling-in around week 3.
Argentine Cherries should be in the market by week 1 or 2, with Chilean crops arriving a bit later on in the month. South American cherries generally are renowned for their quality – even very early in the season, and these should be no exception. They’re normally quite deep red in colour with a firm, meaty texture and full-bodied flavour. Be advised, though, that they will be very expensive, and because of this it may be necessary to impose a minimum order requirement to ensure we don’t get lumbered with a load of unsold ones.
There’s a chance that new season South African Peaches and Nectarines, and perhaps even Apricots might start appearing early in the month, but prices, as one might expect, are likely to be initially very high and their quality unreliable.
New season Peruvian Figs should be in the market by week 2-3 and may at some point thereafter supplant their Brazilian counterparts as our preferred fig of choice - which isn’t much of a choice to be fair, because Brazil and Chile are perhaps likely to be two of the possible three sources available (the other being Israel). The differences between the two are quite stark nevertheless, at least in terms of their appearance, with the Peruvian ones being longer and more teardrop-like in shape and their colour deeper and richer both inside and out.
There’s a reasonable chance that either or both Sicilian Blood Oranges and/or Spanish Seville Oranges might make an appearance at some point during the month. It basically all depends on the prevailing local climatic conditions in the regions where they’re grown because both are traditionally winter fruits and both require very cold conditions in which to thrive.
Spanish Leaf Clementines should be available a couple of weeks or so before Christmas, but be advised that early examples can be a bit green and scruffy looking and don’t always retain their leaves very well. On the up side, they’re usually sweet, juicy and very flavoursome right from the off.
For those of you looking for interesting alternatives to 'mainstream' Tomatoes but who don't wish to purchase a whole box of our Heritage selections, you might consider giving Italian San Marzano a try. Very much resembling a Plum Tomato that's been rolled-out like a sausage, they possess a strong, sweet flavour, relatively low seed count and a firm, dense flesh which not only makes them well suited for cooking and producing sauces, but allows them also to be easily cut and sliced for serving raw.
Cheltenham Green-Top Beetroot is an English heirloom variety first introduced in 1905 which possesses a long, medium-sized, tapering root with broad shoulders and dark-red, finely grained flesh. Anyway, it should be in season mid-month - as should new season English Golden and Choggia (Candy Stripe) Beetroot.
New season English and Dutch Celeriac should both arrive by mid-month.
Mid-to-late December should herald the start of the transition from Dutch to Spanish Capsicums, ultimately leading to cheaper prices as a consequence.
Peruvian Purple Asparagus should begin to trickle in from early to mid December. Differentiated by its violet stems, its unique colour, however, is only skin deep as its underlying flesh is in fact of a creamy-white hue. Furthermore, its sugar content is up to 20% higher than its counterparts, making it much sweeter and less “grassy” tasting, less fibrous and thus more tender, which means it can be eaten either raw or cooked quickly on a high heat.
French new season Yellow Beans should be available by week 2 or 3. Similar to regular fine green beans, they’re long and slender with a slight waxiness to the skin. Their fleshy pods are soft, creamy and sweet and the seeds very tender and can therefore be used either raw or after only the briefest of cooking. Also just coming into season around the same time will be Egyptian Bobby Beans. These, too, are similar to fine green beans, but are thicker and meatier in texture - which does require them to be cooked for longer, but also means they hold up well when used in soups, stews, casseroles and curries.
Spanish Fresh Peas and Fresh Broad Beans should arrive in season by week 1 or 2..
Mid-month should see the arrival new season French and/or Italian Purple and Orange Cauliflowers, as well as new season Romanesco.
New season English Jerusalem Artichokes should be available by about week 3. Furthermore, Italian Fennel and Globe Artichokes should both be excellent throughout the month.
Egyptian (and perhaps even Spanish) Wet Garlic should arrive in season by early December. So what is wet garlic exactly? Well, it’s garlic that’s been harvested and sent to market before it’s had time to dry-out during extended periods in storage. This results in garlic that’s more aromatic, more tender, juicier and more succulent and less pungent than the regular garlic. It works particularly well roasted whole in its leathery enclosure or crushed and added to sauces and salad dressings to give a distinct yet subtle flavour.
Brussels Sticks should be readily available by the beginning of the month. These, let me remind you, are the stems from which the Brussels Sprouts themselves sprout, with each stem measuring approximately half a metre in height and yielding several clusters of fully-formed sprouts all the way along its length.
There should be a wide ranging selection of Wild Mushrooms throughout the month, but, as is often the case with any wild varieties, the number of choices available at any particular time won’t always be consistent and therefore cannot be guaranteed. Our advice therefore is to check with us before planning your menus.
December Fruit BowlAs surprising as it may seem to those of us now beginning to experience the cold climes of a north-European winter, December is usually quite a good month for those compiling fruit bowls, baskets and platters.
In terms of quantity, there’s usually still an abundance of English and Continental Apples and Pears around, to be joined by the arrival of Red Williams Pears.
Citrus fruits of all types will continue to improve, and they'll be a host of delicious examples from which to choose, including Satsumas, Leaf and Baby Clementines and new season Navel Oranges. Furthermore, if this year follows the same pattern as the last two, Sicilian Blood Oranges might also make an appearance during the month.
In the Southern Hemisphere it is high summer which means stone fruits such as South African Peaches, Nectarines and Apricots should have already begun to appear in the market. Although early examples can be hard and bland and initially very expensive, their quality should have improved by mid-month, by which time prices are likely to have come down by some degree.
South American Cherries should be beautiful to behold and often more delicious than the European and North American crops of June and July. Their price, though, will be very, very high.
There should also be plenty of reasonably priced "semi-exotics" available to add distinction to your display, such as Sharon Fruit, Pomegranates, Passionfruit and Custard Apples. Lychees should become more plentiful and cheap as the month progresses.