The spring equinox yesterday marked the beginning of a new season. We've put the snow behind us (hopefully) and are starting to enjoy more sunshine and warmer(ish) days. But no sooner than we don our shorts and start sparking up the BBQ, the grey clouds will likely roll in and hailstones pelt down on our misguided enthusiasm.
Our expectations of what’s in season in spring are similarly premature. Our eagerness to shrug off the monotony of winter is evident in how prematurely spring foods appear on restaurant menus and in glossy food magazines, enticing us with peas, broad beans, asparagus and new potatoes. The supermarket shelves overflow with fresh spring produce, but if you look a bit closer at the label, the majority will be imported from far off places – Thailand, Mexico, Tanzania, Israel. The reality for British farmers is that April is the leanest month of the year.
For those of you that have been with us for a while, you guessed it – I'm talking about the Hungry Gap! It's not as ominous as it sounds though. We won't let you go hungry. It's a term farmers use to describe the leanest period in the farming calendar. This is when the winter vegetables are coming to their end and the spring plants are still busily growing. What it means is there's not much available to harvest in the UK from April through to late May. It may last longer this year as the Beast from the East has slowed down the plants progress.
Keeping it as local as possible
What it means for us is that we have to work harder to source produce for you – there's generally smaller quantities of things available so we might need to source one item from several different suppliers to make up the quantity we need for everyone. During this time we source as much as possible from our local farmers – expect spring garlic, lettuces, parsley, lots of leafy greens and rhubarb eventually. But we'll also be importing a bit more from Europe to give you more variety – courgettes, aubergines, onions, etc. The European farms we source from are all organic and mostly farmer's co-operatives which means they're getting a fair price for their produce too. We work really hard to keep it as local as possible though, and thanks to our new partnership with London Grown at Wolves Lane we're expecting some lovely things that they've been sowing for us – oriental greens like pak choi and mibuna will be ready in May as well as broad beans and black Spanish radish.
Foods to look forward to
From late May/Early June the spring season will be in full swing so you can expect new potatoes, asparagus, chard, spinach, parsley, coriander, kohl rabi, carrots with tops, broad beans, berlotti beans, spring onions, kale, radishes, bags of London Grown salad and bunched beets.