If the weather in southern Italy is mild enough, we’ll likely see the arrival of the first of this season’s Globe Artichokes. They’re usually quite small but perfectly formed – be advised that initial supplies may be somewhat limited.
New-season Spanish Bunched Medium Carrots are due to arrive early in the month and should be very tender, succulent and full-flavoured. Furthermore, their vibrant and juicy sprouting green tops shouldn’t be discarded but instead used to flavour stocks or as an aromatic garnish.
Spanish Romanesco should be excellent throughout the month, possessing a combination of flavours reminiscent of both broccoli and asparagus. If you need reminding, Romanesco is the one that looks like a fluorescent green cauliflower with peaked florets that resemble a Swiss mountainside. Purple sprouting looks very good for this time of year.
Due to arrive soon are new-season French Purple Top Turnips (Navets) – they’ll be crisp and sweet with a juicy, radish-like flavour that makes them ideal for grating and adding raw to winter salads.
The first crops of Egyptian Fresh Peas and Bobby Beans are being harvested as we speak (weather permitting), which means they will hopefully start arriving before the end of the month.
Italian Agretti, also known as Monk’s Beard or Barba Di Frate (pictured above) is a seasonal highlight. It’s a long, tuberous green veg not dissimilar in appearance to chive but with a chard-like flavour and slightly bitter aftertaste. It needs to be blanched or steamed and is then often tossed in olive oil and lemon juice and served as a side dish. Its season is very short, so it’s unlikely to hang around for long.
French new season White Asparagus is likely to arrive in a couple of weeks.
You’ve no doubt heard of the leafy green, cabbage-like Pak Choi – what about the less familiar Choi Sum which has longer, thinner leaves and longer, more-slender stalks that taste rather like Tenderstem Broccoli.
In addition, there’s the versatile Chinese Leaf Cabbage, which can be used as a salad, a soup or a stir-fry ingredient.
You should also consider Curly Kale and Cavolo Nero (Black Cabbage), both of which can be used in oriental-style soups and stir-fries and also finely sliced and deep-fried to provide pretty good substitutes for crispy seaweed.
Then there is Mooli (pictured above), also known as Daikon Radish, as well as Galangal, which looks a bit like ginger, but with smoother, paler, harder flesh that has to be sliced rather than grated and possesses a sharp, citrusy, almost “piney” flavour.
And of course, there are the ubiquitous Beanshoots, which are available in both 250g packs and 4kg bags. Finally, there’s our oriental selection of Mixed Cultivated Mushrooms, which will normally include Enoki, Shimeji, Oyster, both Pink and Grey and sometimes Yellow as well, and Shitake
Moroccan Sanguina Oranges should arrive early in the month and are similar to blood oranges but possess only a smattering of red flecks rather than a concentration of full-bodied bloodiness. Flavour is mostly sweet but with a kind of sherbety tanginess.
All melons are very expensive due to poor harvest.
Sapphire Plums are large, golden-fleshed, grainy-textured and citrusy, becoming red-fleshed and mellow as they mature. The first of them should start arriving early in the month from South Africa, with Chilean imports arriving a week or so thereafter.
Usually available in 125g punnets containing approximately 30 in number, Chilean Kiwi Berries (pictured above) are a grape-sized fruit possessing thin, smooth, opaque green skins which are entirely edible. Their overall flavour is very much like that of regular kiwi fruit, but less citrusy and with a more concentrated, vanilla-like sweetness. They’re considered somewhat of a delicacy and usually only on sale in limited numbers for about a fortnight a couple of times each year which means they’re not cheap!
New-season South African Green William Pears should be in the market very soon.
New-season English Roquette (pictured above), also known as arugula or just rocket, should be available near the end of the month.
English Watercress is in season but availability will be fairly limited initially with prices relatively high until they become fully mainstream by around mid-March.
Dutch Cucumbers should arrive by mid-month to join the Spanish ones already in the market, which should hopefully result in a drop in price.
English Wild Garlic (Ramsons) is now in season.
Kentish Outdoor Rhubarb should arrive in the market around mid-March and provide a cheaper alternative to both the Yorkshire and Dutch indoor-grown (forced) varieties.
The availability of Wild Mushrooms can be a bit patchy during March but you should be able to rely on Chanterelle, Pied De Mouton, Trompette and a few Ceps (Porcini) to appear with reasonable regularity throughout the month.
March is traditionally a month full of possibilities for those compiling fruit bowls, displays and platters.
However, very much depends on the prevailing climatic conditions in the southern regions of the globe, which will determine the quality and quantity of their summer fruit harvests.
Furthermore, unusually cold and damp weather in many parts of Europe in recent years has meant that certain types of fruit crops haven’t always been as good or as plentiful as one would hope.
There should nevertheless be some good Peaches, Nectarines and even Apricots early in the month and Cape Plums will continue to delight.
Clementines and Satsumas will likely become scarce, scruffy or dry-fleshed, at which point it will be time to switch to alternative easy-peel citrus varieties such as Nardorcotts, Minneolas and subsequently Ortanique as alternatives.
Navel, Blood Oranges (pictured above) and newly arrived Sanguina Oranges on the other hand will be juicy and flavoursome.
After many weeks in storage, English Cox’s, Russet and Braeburn Apples will have become mellow and nicely ripened and good throughout the month, as will the UK-grown Comice and Conference Pears. New-season South African Green Williams Pears will be available from about the 3rd week of March.
Red Delicious, Granny Smith, Braeburn, Gala, Pink Lady and Golden Delicious Apples should continue arriving in good shape from France and Spain.
Banana plant yields are usually low at this time of year, resulting in higher prices, variable quality and shortages of fully-ripened fruit.
As well as using fresh Exotics such as Rambutans, Dragon Fruit, Sharon Fruit and Granadillas to add visual interest, consider also Dried Apricots, Dried and Fresh Figs, Dates and Prunes to provide an even greater variety.