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What's in season - January

January pricing is notoriously unpredictable, as it suffers wide fluctuations depending on the level of demand over the Christmas period, the weather (which can be very harsh at this time of year) and also on which days the Continental Bank Holidays fall. However, fruit is certainly more stable than other fresh produce lines.

The Christmas demand for fruit usually results in heavy sales of stone fruit, such as South African Peaches, Apricots and Nectarines. This leads to more realistic prices for these items during January, as well as giving us more developed fruits and larger sizes. However, by the end of January, supplies will become short. Chilean Cherries are excellent, as are South African Santa Rosa Plums.

Citrus fruits are also excellent at this time of year, with lines such as Mandoras and Clementines excelling and Bitter Seville Oranges, Italian Blood Oranges, and new season Cyprus Grapefruit all beginning to arrive at the markets. Lemons peak in quality at this time of year and Figs and Rhubarb are also good value - the latter of which makes a great base for fruit compotes, souffles and mousses.

Israeli Strawberries were very well received last year, and the likelihood is that this success will be repeated if not bettered this year. They have a wonderful, delicate-yet-rich flavour, without the watery texture of some winter soft fruits. However, they too are likely to be gone by the end of the month - so if you are going to use them on your menu, use them early and be prepared to change! Spanish Fruit takes over the supply, however the flavour is not as good - despite their excellent appearance. Prices continue to remain quite high for most other berries during the height of winter, with the Blueberry being the most reasonable.

More fruit recommendations are Sharon Fruit and the Large South African Lychees - both of which fall in price and are at their best. Dates are also excellent - we recommend the toffee flavoured Medjool Dates, which have such a rich flesh that you will never want to go back to the smooth-skinned Israeli variety.

Lettuces, especially the French varieties, remain high in price throughout January. Cucumbers can be in short supply at this time of year, and it is sometimes difficult to find good quality Spanish Peppers  Because of this, we recommend you switch to the Israeli varieties that are more consistent in size and colour.

On to vegetables: English Carrots, Parsnips and Sprouts are usually good value at this time, however they can suffer the occasional price spike if snow or harsh frosts take their toll on the crop. Cauliflowers are also affected by this and they can be quite small. Broccoli and Courgettes are good value at the time of writing, but Yellow Courgettes are very expensive.


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