Spring into March

The run up to March is always like waiting for Christmas Day as a child: you just cannot wait, counting down the sleeps. Except with March you don’t know the exact date that the beautiful produce you have been waiting for all winter will arrive. The only bonus is that there are going to be several exciting mornings as we have some sensational products coming throughout the month!

Morel mushrooms, my favourites, certainly epitomise this: we await the Turkish weather to be kind and send them to us. A real highlight of my year is going to Paris to meet our mushroom man and greet the first arrivals. The aroma and texture as you pick them up is just special, but as always they come at a price. There will also be some South African cep mushrooms, maybe lacking a little flavour compared to the European crops, but they’re very firm with a guarantee of no maggots.

There’s certainly a lot of podding to do as we get fresh Italian garden peas and broad beans, and a direct supplier of these can add the flowers too. Also from Mont Ventoux are haricot rouge beans. Similar to borlotti beans, they’re an amazing white bean with crimson flecks splattered all over them. A truly stunning bean option.

Indoor-grown Jersey Royal new potatoes will be available and a welcome option. Again expensive to start and, for me, they lack flavour compared to the outdoor crop.

Local indoor spring cabbage is a real treat – so tender – but it brings the season forward. For me this is better than the outdoor crop and a real must.

As we head through the month the eagerness builds again as we await the first white asparagus. In France, it amazes me to see the frenzy in the market, as people try to get the first arrivals and the prices that they are willing to pay. When you dine out at night it is the star of the menu and specials boards. Wye Valley is firmly established as the UK’s answer to early season asparagus, and with their innovation they will have both green and white asparagus in March.

There should be an abundance of wild garlic leaves and wild leeks in your local woods and down by the river, with Egyptian and then French wet garlic arriving in the markets. Combine with your local spring lamb and you do not have to be a rocket scientist to start envisaging the most amazing dishes. As I said it is an exciting time of year!

Moving onto fruit, and we are also spoiled for choice. Still going strong is the Yorkshire forced rhubarb, blood oranges, Passe Crassanne pears – but get them while you can because all these will peak this month.

Strawberries can start to take the limelight with the French Gariguette and Marie de Bois both starting. You only have to walk past the greenhouses to see the passion the grower has for these. Packed in straight lines in the small wooden boxes – you know that you are getting the very best.

In March, produce is beginning to get back to tasting how it should. It’s strange to say but spring fennel just has so much more aniseed flavour and the rocket gets back its peppery flavour. Baby salad leaves start again and these options just get better. This year after development, we have added baby escarole and wasabi rocket to the list of 12 varieties. The options here are endless and will take your salad offering to a different level after the winter.