Flavours of November
Some of the most exciting moments of the year come from the sights, smells and tastes of November. Searching for the real winter vegetables is something that I really look forward to. For many of our local growers, this is the month where the combination of local soil types and our climate produces world-class products.
Kale is high on the agenda and there are many great varieties to choose from. Cavolo nero,
green, red and buttonhole are excellent and I am always pleased to see it do well. Over the past few years, kale has seen a real surge in popularity as people have realised that it is packed with health benefits.
Rainbow chard is also great at this time of the year. Formerly known as five colour silverbeet, it has quite rightly made a massive comeback in the UK. It comes in many vibrant varieties: white, yellow, orange, pink, bright Yorkshire red and Swiss.
The mildly flavoured stem produces tasty leaves, which are absolutely delicious in a winter salad. Also great at this time of year is leafy celeriac, Jerusalem and helianti artichokes, chervil root and crosnes – sometimes known as Chinese artichokes.
Cabbage comes into its own and there are many options available, such as white, red and savoy. Always a favourite on winter menus, it needs very little work – simply braise in butter with some cracked pepper and it is perfect for Sunday lunch. It is also tremendous to see how growers are branching out into many excellent varieties of cauliflower. Look out for the green and pointed Romanesque, or the Violetta. Yellow, purple and green varieties are all available up until late December.
So called ‘forgotten veg’ are also emerging. Salsify, white beetroot, parsley root and golden turnips all have flavours which are hard to ignore. Red meat radish is a particular favourite and can grow as large as a cricket ball. It comes from the horseradish family and has a peppery punch that will knock you for six!
Tender sprouting broccoli – both the white star and purple – are taking over from the standard woody-tasting broccoli. The white is the sweetest and most tender but both look amazing on the plate and with no waste or prep to do, they’re well worth the money!
Pumpkins of all sizes and varieties are high quality from now until mid-January to the start of February. Try the muscat squash or muscat pumpkin – delicious soft flesh with lots of fibre and a gorgeous dark yellow to orange colour. Squashes are at their best until the end of December for some varieties and until the beginning of March for others.
Citrus fruits can’t be ignored at this time of the year and there’s plenty to choose from. Look out for finger limes, pomelos, bergamots and cedrats. From Spain and Italy we will get navel oranges, plus easy-peel clementines and lemons.
This is also an exciting month for apples and pears – their flavours are superb and they’ll be in season until January. Take your pick from king of the pippins, cox orange, braeburn, antares, golden delicious pink, royal gala, pink lady, gold rush, clocharde du mans, white Canada, calville white, Canada grey, and great Alexander.
My all-time favourite is the gold rush – it takes its colour from the extra sunshine it gets at the top of the tree, resulting in an amazing tart and sweet flavour. Once you taste a gold rush tarte tatin, there is just no going back!
The pear selection is heavenly and it gets better and better as we move through the month. The Provence quince is in its prime now, but other great varieties are armande, passe crassane, doyenne du Comice, Packham’s Triumph, bartlett and William.
Planning the winter menu is one thing, but it’s also good to keep an eye on Christmas prep. And Christmas lunch just wouldn’t be the same without the perfect roast potato.
The Mayan Gold is supreme in every way. It is extremely floury and therefore makes very crispy roasties! It has an exceptionally moreish flavour and looks spectacular on the plate, with a deep yellow colour. Another absolute cracker is the red Duke of York 1942. It has an attractive, deep red skin which gives way to a good floury flesh. The flavour is delicate – and again – extremely moreish.
November really is a month of endless choices and wonderful flavours. Enjoy!