Flavours of January

Flavours of January

Nature has its own way of balancing the scales. Work with the seasons in January and you’ll be able to better manage budgets in this tricky post-Christmas period and give your customers a feast of UK-grown vegetables at the very peak of perfection for both flavour and nutrition.

A couple of top picks for this chilliest of months are kale and carrots. From cattle to kings, kale has made an amazing journey recently graduating from fodder to superfood – and it’s at its tastiest and nutritious best during the coldest months. Sauteed with different herbs and spices or shredded into stews and soups, kale is incredibly versatile and works with any number of cuisines. Fresh in this month is our Yorkshire green or red kale, Lancashire cavolo nero or Evesham baby cavolo nero. Other greens at their best – and most affordable – include the superb Evesham January king cabbage – streaked with red and bursting with flavour – Lancashire savoy and spring cabbages, red and white cabbage, sprouts and leeks. Tender Evesham purple sprouting broccoli maximises colour and flavour and minimises waste.

A January highlight is Scottish wild sea kale. A star on the menus of adventurous chefs and prized by foragers, it tastes like a cross between asparagus and celery. For more wild flavours to wake up the taste buds, we have Norfolk foraged sea beet and sea purslane.

Top of the roots has to be the carrot. Cropped during winter, they’re at their sweetest and crunchiest – whether white, orange or purple – from cute chantenays to French sand carrots. Juice them with apples or add coriander to make soups, roast or grate in salads with Lebanese-style dressing with cumin – and for dessert this is the best time to make fresh carrot cake. Try small English onions – Cambridgeshire baby brown and baby red onions – perfect for roasting whole along with Lincolnshire baby piccolo parsnips and all roots such as celeriac, swede and turnip.

Much much closer to home, this is the month for early Yorkshire forced rhubarb. A burst of colour in a predominantly grey month, enjoy their stunning bright red stems, lovely yellow leaves and meltingly sweet and tender flavour and texture. Our supply comes as ever from of our great supplier’s  Oldroyd and Tomlinsons,  in the famous – and protected – rhubarb triangle.

Another British-grown product that stands out are Jerusalem artichokes from Lincolnshire.

When life gives you lemons, enjoy them – and all of the other super juicy citrus fruits around this month. Fresh in are Italian Amalfi leafy lemons, Japanese fresh yuzu, Australian finger limes, Chinese pomelos – all now at their best. The bitter Seville marmalade orange is also available for a very short period – perfect for winter warming hot puddings, making marmalade and enhancing main dishes from suckling pig to salt cod. The blood orange remains the finest dessert orange in the world and it’s peaking now as it needs the cooler nights to develop the sensational bright maroon flesh which is also the healthy part as it contains the antioxidants, anthocyanins. Check out our blood oranges and clementines from Escrig Gourmet, arguably the best orange grower in Valencia.

Pears are the queen of the winter season and the passé-crassane pear – wax-tipped to control the ripening process – is at its juicy best in January. On the apple front, choose winter gems like the gold rush, chantecler, grey pippin, clocharde and the patte de loup, which the French also cook with. For some exotic fruits to liven up January desserts, try the Philibon lychee, Peruvian air freight Kent mangoes, South African Ronde de Bordeaux baby black figs, Italian golden kiwi, Turkish quince and Israeli madjool dates.