The void is supposed to be filled by purple sprouting broccoli; I live in south west France, and it seems no-one has ever heard of it! Winter is over and spring is bouncin but not yet jizzing out produce all over the shops. I spent an unnaturally long time trying to work out how French people have named one of my favourite treats – the broccoli that actually tastes nice. Calabrese in Italian, perhaps that’s a clue... Ah, of course! It’s not French. Silly me. Why would a French shopper be interested in something that his great-great-great-great grandmother didn’t cook? Bref, I can’t find it bloody anywhere.
Of course, though, French people do like food, and redemption is available if you’re prepared to dig a bit. I had a fantastic false dawn at our brilliant daily farmer’s market: it looked like green sprouting broccoli, it was fresh and cheap, and they call it brouttes. Innit! I thought to myself, bought a couple of bunches and headed home. A bit of pre-dinner googling calmed me down; it wasn’t calabrese at all, but the young flower shoots of an already-harvested cabbage. Still, they tasted delicious when briefly cooked in salty water and went down very well with my rabbit stew, and the Pinot Noir we drank with it. Like a cross between the purple sprouting stuff and spring cabbage – a distinct success. Better allotmenters than me might already be among the cognoscenti, but none of my French foodie-type guests had heard of it either, though they assured me that I wouldn’t just be fighting with the grannies to get it before it’s short season is spent. Also, it seems that there is a silver lining when your cabbages fail to heart and spitefully bolt: chop the shoots off before they flower and munch them steamed, with a bit of nice olive oil. Mmmmm... Yeah! Fuck you cabbage!!
I was at the market this morning and there were none left. It seems that in the blink of an eye, the season is gone (ho hum), but so is the void, and I came home with some new season white asparagus and baby, snooker-ball radishes with lovely bright greens. Oh, and it’s 28° outside... Woohoo! To say it might make me distastefully smug, but down here we start bouncin a bit earlier than at home! Boing!