New Covent Garden Market, London’s premier wholesale fruit and vegetable market, has carried out an annual trends audit, providing a sneak peak at what the likes of Le Gavroche, The Dorchester, The Four Seasons and The Wolseley will be serving up in 2017.
Supplying 40 percent of the fresh produce eaten out of the home in the capital including the majority of the city’s Michelin star establishments, it’s one of the best places to spot the latest fresh produce trends. From the first iceberg lettuce in the 1970s to the first pineberries and dragon fruits in more recent years, they saw it here first.
1. COLOURFUL PRODUCE
With purple firmly set out as the colour du jour for 2017, traders have reported an uplift in sales of everything from purple carrots to lavender hued Brussels sprouts and artichokes. We’ll be seeing a veritable rainbow on our plates this year as heritage carrots in yellows, oranges and purples, remain popular too.
2. MICROHERBS AND EDIBLE FLOWERS
Microherbs - seedlings picked between six and 21 days old - are ideal for adding delicate and subtle flavour to soups, salads and more. Already widely used in top eating establishments, new varieties such as butterfly sorrel and bronze fennel are finding their way on to the city’s most stylish plates adding wonderful colours and intricate taste layers. Meanwhile, edible flowers have stretched beyond the realms of a classic pansy or nasturtium and we are seeing chefs and mixologists celebrating seasonality with cucumber flowers, dill crowns and daisies.
3. HEALTH-CONSCIOUS EATING
The traders of New Covent Garden Market unanimiously voted healthy eating as THE number one trend which has contributed to increased sales in their businesses, with superfoods such as raw roots of turmeric and both new and old varieties of kale gaining popularity everywhere from fine dining establishments to juice bars. Chefs are also increasingly responding to customers looking to avoid allergens. Meanwhile, kale and avocado fans need not fear as these favouites of the raw food movement continuing their ascendency as two of the most popular and en vogue green vegs of the moment.
4. EAT BRITISH, EAT LOCAL
Three themes that strongly shone through from the survey were the growing popularity of British produce, heritage varieties and hyper localisation with a demand for not just British but also regional and locally sourced produce too. Just as meat provenance is very important to customers, chefs want to visit and credit the farms working hard to grow their vegetables, especially if they can be reached on the London tube like Growing Underground. This business started a few years ago under a railway in Clapham, innovatively using disused space and demonstrating industry savvy in terms of sustainability as a zero carbon producing grower.
5. CLASSICS WITH A TWIST
In 2017, we’ll see lots of old favourites with a new and interesting twist to them such as white asparagus, Romanesco broccoli, sprouting cauliflower, flower sprouts, Brussel tops, kalettes and raw salad varieties of young kale. New varieties are showing that brassicas are anything but dull and the consumer palette appears to have developed a new appreciation of the unique bitter taste that is characteristic of this family of vegetables.
6. NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK
Some exciting and wildly different varieties are newly appearing in the crates of New Covent Garden’s market traders. One such produce is nasturtium root (pictured right) which heralds from the Andes mountains in South America and has a beautiful yellow colour to it. Nasturtium root has a creamy, earthy flavour with natural mustard oil contributing a peppery tone. Like other roots, they can be boiled, roasted or mashed, while braising with as little water as possible helps to retain their shape and creamy texture. Tokyo turnips are also turning heads with their unique taste that is somewhere between a radish and a turnip. Along with Japanese herbs, this variety is also a great example of a produce the is not native to the UK but is now been grown from seed here, in response to the demand for more locally grown produce.
7. SOUTH AMERICAN, JAPANESE AND CARRIBEAN CUISINE
South American cooking from Mexico, Peru, and Bolivia features herbs such as the pungent, oregano-like epazote, and papola, a herb similar to coriander. Tomatillos are also being planted in UK glasshouses, alongside more familiar varieties. Chrysanthemum leaves, the classic chop suey green, already grow well in the UK and we’re seeing more Japanese and Chinese specialities being grown from seed, such as amaranth and shiso leaves. Other ethnic produce being grown in UK fields include Caribbean turnip tops, also known as callaloo or collard greens.
8. ROOTS AND TUBERS
All manner of roots and tubers are proving a big hit with chefs at the moment, including roots of chervil, nasturtium and parsley, all of which offer rich, less fibrous flavour. Crunchy crosnes, or Japanese artichokes are an unusual root, fiendishly difficult to harvest and prepare, which accounts for their rarity and expense.
Sustainability has been noted as a key trend by many of the market’s traders. Increasingly there is a demand for not just the exceptional produce they supply which is the freshest of the fresh, but also outgraded or surplus vegetables which companies will find uses for to make jams, chutney and much more to ensure they are building sustainability into their business models.
The hundred or so traders on the market supply clientele made up of London’s top gourmands and most respected head chefs, independent greengrocers, market stall holders, schools, hospitals, five star hotels and even the Houses of Parliament and London Zoo. They are often third or even fourth generation and are truly the thoroughbreds of the greengrocery world with a level of fresh produce expertise that is hard to match.