Here is our latest produce update for May 2023 from Neil Young our Produce Buyer who works out of our Glasgow hub. His insight provides a snapshot of what he is seeing in the markets and gives chefs an idea of what’s in season.
“There is lots of produce in transition at the moment and with the UK growing season well underway, it won’t be long before more local produce becomes available,” says Neil.
Neil tells us that all apples, lemons and oranges have switched or are very close to switching to southern hemisphere now. Brazilian/Costa Rican melon is almost finished. Supply of these varieties will therefore be relatively tight until Spain kicks in again. He also says Italian kiwi is all but finished with a flip to Chilean from now.
“Spanish stone fruit (peach, nectarine, cherry, apricots) are all available,” says Neil. “Quality is decent and will continue to improve as the season unfolds. Coloured grapes plentiful too”. Conference pears, like every year, are being pulled at this time from storage – smaller volumes are coming through due to poorer growing conditions last year.
Neil adds that all berries (strawberries raspberries, red currants, and brambles) are coming through European supply mainly Spain/Holland. “Scottish strawberries are currently growing in heated glass houses and have been available in very small amounts. Look out for 2nd/3rd week in May for the season to properly kick in. UK forced rhubarb is still available but it will end soon so be quick,” he says
Like forced Rhubarb above, Neil reminds us that the UK wild garlic season ends soon. “Stand out veg currently has to be UK asparagus,” he says. “Like every year, it’s a short season so get it on your menus now while you can! Kales, Calvo Nero and chards are all very nice at the moment too”.
Spanish broccoli is plentiful and quality has been right up there this year. The current heat in Spain might affect the season lasting out until UK crops get properly going so fingers crossed! Likewise, Portuguese Tenderstem Broccoli is fantastic quality right now. UK purple sprouting broccoli also available. The UK leek season is currently ending and we’ll be on to Spanish or French.
Furthermore, keep an eye on French cauliflower as the season may likely finish before the UK crops are ready. The transition is likely to result in tight supply and differences in size, quality and colour but we will use our skill and experience to limit disruption!
Neil says, “UK spring cabbage is currently looking and tasting great and should be fine until early to mid June. This is a good alternative to European Hispi/Savoy”. Kohlrabi is still available out of Europe and on carrots, UK supplies are just about finished as we move on to imported product. French mixed coloured carrots again very nice. Supply on fine beans, mangetout, sugar snaps are good but as we are transitioning between seasons, prices are higher than normal.
Neil says that potatoes are likely to be a challenge throughout the summer: “Due to last year’s difficult growing season, all potato products (especially baking potatoes) are now suffering in terms of availability and volumes. “With potato based food manufacturers buying up anything available potato wise, it leaves the market very tight on supply for everyone else. Chipping potatoes in particular are going to be under a lot of pressure until the new season gets going later in the year. Saying this, we will, as always, continue to do our best in terms of managing our way through it,” says Neil.
Onions have now flipped from Spanish to Chilean and this will prevail for the time being. Although transport costs make these a bit more expensive they are a reliable source of quality product from the southern hemisphere. Dutch 60/80 medium onions though are still doing OK quality wise. UK grown swede has only got a couple of weeks left to run with new season hopefully up and running by then. If not, imported product to plug a short-term gap may be necessary.
Neil adds that salads and lettuces are still coming mainly out of Europe. Most lines are plentiful and in a few weeks we’ll be back on to UK grown products. All pepper and tomato products are coming through Dutch suppliers with no real issues.
To round things off, Neil offers: “Keep an eye out for spinach, rocket and mixed baby leaf that will be all UK grown from mid-May onwards – a real sign that summer is here!”
Please note: Some of the items mentioned in this produce report may be ‘special order’ so speak to your sales representative on 0345 450 8888 as early as possible to discuss availability and your exact requirements.
Alternatively, click www.williamsonfoodservice.co.uk for more information.