Seasonality and food trends to kick off 2021
Whether embracing the growing trend of Veganuary or simply reducing the Quality Street consumption, there is a fresh array of tasty fruit and vegetables to pick from that are at the peak of their seasonality, several of which are grown right here in the UK.
Clementines and other citrus fruits have now moved to Spanish supply with December and January being the peak season. New season Seville and blood oranges arrived in January and whilst volumes are being reported as sufficient, the sizes of oranges are currently small, although thought to improve over the coming weeks. Plums, peaches, and nectarines have moved to South African produce. Apples and pears are still being sourced from UK growers and will not be impacted by potential border delays.
UK grown rhubarb is also in season for January. Field-grown rhubarb does not come into season until April but forced rhubarb can be seen in January. Grown in the dark in forcing sheds, this rhubarb sees no natural or artificial light and was historically harvested by candlelight. It is a brighter red than field-grown rhubarb and is sweeter and more tender.
With a growing trend for the likes of smashed avocado on toast, 11 billion pounds of the fruit are consumed globally each year (3). Grown in tropical and Mediterranean climates, the avocado is imported from Mexico, the Caribbean, California, and Southern Europe. Hass and Fuerte avocados are the two main varieties imported to the UK, with Spain being a source of supply. In season for the earlier months of the year, the Spanish Hass avocado season starts in December and will last until May. In the same way as bananas, easy-peelers and tomatoes, avocados are harvested whilst unripe, with the ripening process starting once the fruit is taken from the tree. A popular substitute for fat in vegan baking, demand has risen across the world as well as in the UK and supply cannot always meet demand. Whilst qualities are good, the most popular mid-sized fruit can be in short supply. Relying on imports, potential port delays may cause an increase in transit time and reduce quality.
For those giving Veganuary a try, UK grown beetroot is still in season for January. Grown in a variety of soil conditions, roasting the beetroot brings out the full sweetness of the vegetable and is taster than pickled or boiled. This root vegetable is often used in vegan baking as it adds moisture whilst its earthy flavour is masked by ingredients such as cocoa powder and (vegan) chocolate. Smaller sizes of the vegetable are more tender, and beetroot should be firm and have a smooth, undamaged surface. A resilient vegetable, beetroot rarely needs treating with pesticides as it is generally free of diseases, making it naturally organic and an environmentally friendly crop to grow (4).
Kale is another UK-grown vegetable that is popular in healthy-eating. Although available all year round, kale is best from mid-September through to February. As one of the most tolerant vegetables, good quality kale can be grown in almost all conditions except for heavy shade or water-logged soil. Kale has a resistance to frost and becomes more flavourful and available during the colder months of the year when the flavour is improved by the frost turning the natural starches of the plant to sugar. As part of the brassica oleracea family, kale sits alongside broccoli, brussel sprouts and cabbage, all of which are still in season for January and available from UK supply.
Whilst the full impact of the new import and export process following the Brexit deal remains to be seen, we can expect there to be some delay in lead times for imported goods. The wide array of UK sourced foods allows us to make the best of this produce, enjoying it at the peak of its seasonality.