Growers are warning that cold spring weather has delayed UK crops by anything from two to four weeks. This could result in a late start to broccoli, courgettes, peas, broad beans and other summer vegetables. This will increase demand on imported produce and push prices up. There are, however, courgette flowers arriving from France, peas and broad beans from Spain and borlotti beans from Morocco.
St George's mushrooms are coming in from France and eastern Europe but there's a paucity here. White asparagus is arriving from France but it's still too cold for green asparagus in England. There's some arriving from the Wye Valley, but it's expensive and not great.
It's all change from last year, when unseasonably warm weather saw asparagus and even strawberries coming in during April, but it'll be a few months until the red fruit season kicks off this year. Wild garlic is still around and is due to flower soon, but wild leeks are pretty much finished in Scotland. Summer truffles are available at about £400 a kg but, although they look fine, are white inside and lack any strong aroma.
Blood oranges are still around, and new South African satsumas are now arriving regularly, although they're dear, a little pale and watery. But you might have to switch to them soon because Israeli late clementines and ortaniques are becoming scarce.
We seem to be talking ourselves into a recession in the wider scheme of things, and on the meat front we're in danger of doing the same. Beef prices are on the increase again, up about 4% on British cuts because of the scarcity of the meat. Spring lambs are still not readily available, and to make things worse, hogget has now dried up. Pork is stable at a higher price but, all told, there are no bargains to be had.
Source: Birtwistle Butchers - 0161-728 3340 - www.birtwistlebutchers.co.uk
The gulls' egg season kicked off this week and, although they will be up in price slightly this year because of unfavourable weather for the pickers, they are a fantastic seasonal treat. Good sea trout - called sewin in Welsh - (£21 per kg) are arriving from South Wales and wild salmon will be arriving by next month.
Black bream has now started - a fishy harbinger of summer - and turbot prices are due to come down shortly as nets men gear their ships to catching the fish, which are moving inshore to spawn. There's plenty of good line-caught Cornish mackerel and Cornish sardines, but squid prices are still through the roof so it's best to use cuttlefish instead. Cod, halibut and haddock are all arriving from sustainable sources in Norway and Iceland.
Source: Chef Direct 01275 474707