Organic Brussel Sprouts
Surely the ‘Marmite’ of the vegetable world. Dividing the nation into love it or hate it camps the humble brussel sprout seems to have the ability to divide the nation. As with many of our modern vegetables its roots can be traced back to Ancient Rome but Sprouts as we know them were possibly grown as early as the 13th century in what is now Belgium. Their early popularity in that region of Europe and its proximity to Brussels the city, is where the name comes from.
The earliest written reference dates 1587 and throughout the 16th and 17th centuries they gained popularity throughout Northern Europe.
Brussel Sprouts for us the in the UK have become synonymous with Christmas but actually two thirds of all our sprouts are eaten outside of this festive period. We are the largest consumers of Sprouts in Europe however export virtually none of our crop with The Netherlands and Mexico ! being two largest exporting nations.
Gone, perhaps, are the days when brussel sprouts were peeled and then boiled for hours until so soft no chewing was required. The 1990’s had everyone peeling and putting a cross cut in the base, before boiling and now we like to shred them and cook in butter with chopped chestnuts.
However you cook them (as long as not still boiling them to a mush) and which ever camp you are in there is no denying the iconic place this little cabbage has in our winter kitchens.
English Organic Apples Season
Is there anything better to eat than an English (organic – well we are bias) apple? Crisp, juicy and with that tang, that makes you smile, that you just don’t get from a Southern Hemisphere grown fruit.
From the first Discovery apples of the season with their pink tinted flesh through Worcester Pearmain, Windsor and the later season apples like Scrumptious, Blaze and Cox Royale all the varieties have something in common. Unique flavour, locally grown and the added benefit of having been grown to the strictest organic standards.
One of the most unique features of our English Organic apples is the seasonality of each variety. These means that there is an order in which the apples come and are ready to eat, some are around longer than others particularly as the season progresses, but most of the early varieties are only available for maybe as little as a week or two.
Nature and the weather has a habit of keeping us guessing particularly when it comes to farming however there is an order in which we expect the UK apples to come to market and the list below shows the main varieties in the order in which we expect to be able to offer them to our customers. As said before, some come and go quickly whilst others keep going a bit longer and cross over with other varieties. As we get into the season and by late September we expect to have maybe as many as 7 or 8 varieties available at the same time.
English Organic Apple Seasonal Order
Cox Orange Pippin
With the Organic Jersey Royal season just starting I thought I would share a little information about these unique famous spuds. Master Farms is the company name for the Le Maistre family business which has been growing in the south-east corner of Jersey since 1841. It has evolved from the original family farm based at Les Pres Manor and founded by Charles Alan Le Maistre; it is now owned and managed by Peter and Philip Le Maistre and Philip’s son, Philip. The farm consists of around 900 vergees, (Just over 160 hectares) growing a wide range of crops. As with all businesses change has been inevitable. The farm concentrated on cider orchards in the 19th century, outdoor tomatoes and Jersey Royals in the 20th century and organic vegetables in the 21st century. The one constant feature of the farm over the past 160 years has been the Jersey cow. Master Farms has a herd based at Westlands Farm in St Brelade and the herd at Les Pres Manor is managed by Peter and Philips’ nephew John. The cows play a fundamental role in the organic production cycle and at the present time the range of crops produced organically includes Potatoes, Courgettes, Broad Beans and Cauliflower. The marketing side of the business, Jersey Quality Produce LTD, is run by Peter’s son Matthew and Bob Pallot. JQP is fully owned by Master Farms and markets the produce from the farm as well as produce from six other growers in the Island. The Le Maistre family are confident that Jersey’s geographical position will give them the necessary advantages to compete in the organic markets successfully. Jersey lies 100 miles south of the U.K. and just 14 miles off the coast of Normandy in the Bay of St Malo. It regularly enjoys the highest recorded annual sunshine hours in the British Iles and because of its position in the Gulf Stream also enjoys mild winters. The soil on the island is of excellent quality with good drainage. This combination gives the Jersey grower an ideal platform to produce safe sustainable crops of good quality and flavour over a long growing season.
This time of year we see the first of the European New Season Lemons from Spain and Sicily. After a few months of Southern Hemisphere fruit it is great to get fruit that is grown a little closer to home however there is one small problem and that is the colour, these early fruit are green.
In most of our minds lemons are yellow (and while we are on the subject limes are green) however this is not always the case but just what we are used to, (some varieties of limes turn yellow when ripe). We have even taken the popular names for these two fruit and attached them to colours, lemon and lime mean yellow and green to us all.
Lemon trees themselves are quite different to how most of us imagine fruit to grow, some varieties like the Femminello, which is Sicily’s most common lemon variety, are continuously blooming and in the correct conditions will blossom five times in a single year with each flowering producing its own fruit. From a fruit production point of view this is what gives us these early Verdelli lemons (they come mainly from a forced flowering the previous July – August).
So why are these lemons green and the next fruit, the Primofiore, more yellow, well it all comes down to temperature. As summer gives way to autumn the days and nights get colder but more importantly the temperature differential between day and night also gets greater. This temperature differential essentially shocks the fruit into turning yellow (there are of course all sorts of clever chemical processes taking place including chlorophyll in the fruit). Many people believe that a green lemon is not ripe but this is not necessarily true, often there is little difference in terms of juice and acidity levels (taste) of green and yellow fruit.
It is possible for us to replicate this natural process, some growers with the green fruit picked have been known to place the fruit in a fridge and then in a warmer warehouse. Repeating this process several times over a few days will cause the fruit to become more yellow. The ‘gassing’ of the fruit using ethylene along with careful temperature and humidity control will also de-green lemons however this is not a process that is generally used with organic fruit.
This week I ate my first Organic English Apple of the season, a Discovery Apple from Paul Ward an amazing Kent based organic grower. Every year it is the same, that first bite into a real apple with real flavour evokes such powerful memories. Transported back to my uncle’s farm in North Devon and their orchard of old apple trees, the taste explosion and that unmistakable tartness. All the apples we eat from January through to this wonderful time of year basically taste the same, Royal Gala, Braeburn, Pink Lady, all crisp, all juicy but all devoid of any real flavour. I am sure if the person writing this was a wine connoisseur then they would be using words like ‘complex’ and ‘with a hint of berries’ but I’m not one of those so all I can say is that they taste amazing.
What is even better about this first of the English Apples is that we still have Early Windsor, Scrumptious, Kids Orange, Lambourne, Red Pippin, Topaz and of course Egremont Russett’s (to name but a few of the 30 or more varieties we will have over the next 4 or 5 months) to look forward too.
I for one cannot wait, this is what the seasons are all about. Enjoying something this is available now, at it’s best now and then gone again until this time next year.
With St George’s Day been and gone, the day that it is traditionally considered that the UK asparagus season starts, the actual season has begun. With a season of around six weeks make sure you get some while you can.