december's market menu

December is of course, mid-summer for the southern hemisphere. The long days bring forth a wonderful variety of summer fruit - all travelling far and wide, but usually arriving in good shape. We are expecting Grapes, Raspberries, Blackberries and Cherries from various parts of South America.

Piccolo Parsnips are now in the market. They are small, sweet, and tender baby Parsnips. They are from the same grower as the Chantenay Carrots, just top them and cook whole. Another great item they produce is the Tri Colour Chantenay Carrots which are not only beautiful but have great flavour too! Both are a great product for your Christmas menus!!

Curly Kale, Cabbages and Courgettes are all good options. Savoy Cabbage should retain its quality and Red and White Cabbage are a good choice for cooked dishes and winter salads. 

Italian Fennel stays good through most of the winter. It is particularly welcome at a time when vegetable variety is somewhat limited.  

Celeriac is always a good choice during early winter and the home-produced crop is the best bet in December.  

Leeks are also worth a quick shout out, as they are always nice this time of year. 

We should still have a good supply of English Large Leaf Spinach as long as we don’t have too many continuous frosts. Failing this, Cyprus Spinach is usually something special too.  

Now in stock are Roscoff Onions. (Although Roscoff DOP status means you can’t call them that unless they are grown in Roscoff, France). They are a lovely pink sweet onion, perfect for purées, pickles, roasting, etc…

Starchy vegetables are great for winter energy, Sweet Potatoes and Salsify offer an exciting alternative to potatoes. English Jerusalem Artichokes are a must too. They are at their crunchiest in December, have plenty of nutty taste and are usually good value.

If you are looking for an alternative Potato you could try the delicious French Ratte Potato. Also available and of great quality are Pink Fir Apple, Rose Vale Mids, and Black/Purple Potatoes.

Fresh Herbs are not a problem in the winter. Prices tend to stay the same as do their quality. Micro Herbs are something that can also help lift your plates of roasted root veg by garnishing with Micro Celery, Micro Thyme, or even Micro Ruby Mustard Frills. 

This year we are going to again be delivering Christmas Trees grown in Boxted, Essex. We can get 2 varieties, both the Norway Spruce and Nordmann Fir will add a nice touch to your dining rooms, not to mention the smell of pine is about as Christmassy as it gets!

Celery is at its best. Most English Salads will be long-gone. Italian Cos and Radicchio, Spanish Iceberg and French Watercress will be the order of the day. Rocket becomes more expensive as they must be grown in heated and artificially-lit greenhouses, even in Provence!  

Wild Mushroom supplies can be very good in December but bad weather can cause severe shortages. Varieties likely to be available for pre order are Pied de Moutons, Pied Bleu, Trompettes and Chanterelles. While Girolles are plentiful this time of year, they are very large and there will be no small sizes about.

Leafy Clementine’s & Satsuma’s will be in good supply and are rarely anything but delicious and beautiful. 

We will of course be stocking 5 kg boxes of Trimmed Brussel Sprouts (available by the kilo too) ready to go in the pot. Don’t forget about Sprout Tops and Sprout Stalks as well.

Sweet, juicy Lychees have a short season. They are usually wonderful just before Christmas.  

Cranberries are also at their best in either fresh or frozen. 

Spanish Citrus Fruit is at its very best in December and we may see the return of Blood Oranges. Sometimes they don't appear until the New Year, so just pencil them in for a few specials. 

The Cape of South Africa should deliver us ripe Plums, Apricots, Grapes, and Baby Vegetables. They won’t be as tasty as the summer versions but are still a decent alternative to wintery root veg. 

And last but not least, at the height of their quality are all the root veg; Parsnips, Carrots, Swede, Turnips, Beetroot and Horseradish.


Generally, veg supply was tight last season (2022/23), and it looks like it will be tight again this season (2023/24). The reasons for this are manifold, but the main cause, by far, is not Brexit, it’s not inflation, it’s not vegetable growers throwing in the towel, it’s not desperately short labour supply – it’s the weather!

Last season we had a red-hot summer, followed by an autumn that was more like a summer, followed by a deep freeze. This season, we’ve had a cold, wet spring which delayed plantings, particularly for spuds. And with the exception of June, this was followed by a cool summer with low light levels. Now it’s so wet we’re leaving crop in the ground to rot. Unfortunately, the worst-affected crop by far is our biggest crop, POTATOES

Plantings of spuds were already down by around 10 per cent after the last dreadful growing season. On top of this, we now have around 10 to 15 per cent still in the ground. Some of this crop, which has sat in water far too long, won’t be lifted. The rest that are lifted will be of poorer quality with high levels of bacterial and fungal rot. And we’re hearing of similar problems in other major potato-growing areas on the continent, particularly Belgium, France, the Netherlands and northern Germany. Worst affected is Ireland with some areas having as much as 50% of the crop still in the ground.

The spot price of spuds is currently at least double what you would expect at this time of year, and it looks like it’s only going one way. That would be welcome news if most UK growers sold their spud crop on the spot market. But they don’t. Most are tied into retail, chipping or crisping contracts so are likely to suffer losses again this season. 

The Farmers Guardian is estimating the UK crop to be as low as 4.14 million tonnes this season. That may sound like a lot but as recently as 2017 we had a 6.2mt UK spud crop and in the 1990s we regularly harvested crops in excess of 7mt. Fact – this season will be the lowest-ever recorded potato crop in GB.

Other crops affected by the recent storms are BRASSICAS such as CAULI’S and BROCCOLI, where again spot prices are at least double the norm as the weather brought the UK season to an early end. We are having to buy French Cauli’s which cost about three times more than normal. Carrots are a fresh-lifted crop in this country, so we’ll have crop write-offs and quality issues there too as a result of them sitting in water for too long.

We seem to get several major weather events every year nowadays and then when you add in all the other challenges UK growers are facing, it’s no wonder we’re seeing more and more production of veg being driven abroad. As a nation we import around 40 per cent of our food, which many would say is too much. For fresh produce this figure jumps to nearly 70 per cent and sadly we can only see it continuing on its upward trajectory.