Making their way exclusively into selected shops are Victorian favourites salsify and Fenland celery - specially grown in the Fens for sale in the Victorian Christmas markets in London.
Fenland celery was extremely popular in the Victorian Christmas markets in London and became a feature of the Victorian Londoner’s Christmas dinner. Grown in the flat deep peat fields of East Anglia using a traditional growing technique - wide rows with deep trenches and peated soil banked up around the celery (‘known as earthing up’), protecting the celery from the frosts and blanching.
This results in a celery whiter than standard celery with a distinctive delicate, sweet and nutty flavour and a clean, crisp texture. It’s a British heritage ingredient and was the first English vegetable to be awarded a PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) status in 2013.
Salsify is known as a versatile vegetable with a unique flavour and texture similar to a mild artichoke with a trace of liquorice or, when cooked, some even claim to detect a hint of oysters. Salsify has two varieties, black, which is grown in Cambridgeshire, and a small amount of white salsify which is grown in the sandy soils of Ayrshire in Scotland. This will be the UK’s only crop and is harvested between September and December with product being available into the new year.
Gary Grace, Vegetable Buyer at Waitrose & Partners explains, "We are excited to be introducing both these Victorian vegetables to our range in a select number of our branches. Both Salsify and Fenland celery are largely forgotten vegetables that were favoured in Victorian England due to their versatility, especially during the winter months. Over recent years we have seen many of the traditional cuts of meat come back into favour and we hope that customers will feel the same about Salsify and Fenland celery and enjoy these vegetables once again."
According to the Waitrose & Partners 2019 Food and Drink report, the traditional turnip is also proving a hit, with sales of the root veg up 37% compared to last year. Despite its humble roots the turnip is becoming a fashionable addition to restaurant menus as chefs discover its versatile texture and subtle flavour - with it being mentioned over 30 times in The Waitrose & Partners Good Food Guide (2019).
Salsify will be available in store from 9th November (£2.99 for 350g) and Fenland celery is in store now (£1.59 per head)