The Market plays a vital role in the nation's food chain, acting as a channel for fresh produce into the capital and well beyond.
Her companies send out more than 10,000 nutritious meals per week from her kitchens based in the railway arches here at the market. With nearly twenty years in the business, she knows a thing or two about health and nutrition.
Eat The Rainbow
In recent years, we've got more savvy about our diet. Variety is key - eating a wide range of fresh foods, predominantly seasonal fruit and vegetables. "I'm so often asked about superfoods," explains Irvine. "The reality is that you need a lot of different foods - usually a rainbow of different colours on your plate - to get a balanced nutrition. It's all about balance and variety."
See our Market Reports on the website's food blog and social media channels if you want a guide as to what is in peak season each month.
And have you seen our extensive series of Chef's Guides? These are a great inspiration for anyone who enjoys cooking, with a range that includes Yorkshire forced rhubarb, winter squashes, pomegranates, bergamot, avocados and more ...
A record number of people have signed up for Veganuary this month - the challenge to eat only plant-based foods - with more than half a million committing so far. "I welcome it," confirms Irvine. "I think a vegan diet is very good for the environment. I think it’s very good for society as a whole. It’s very good for our bodies. But you have to go into it with your eyes open."
She urges caution, however, to anyone who is thinking of plunging feet first into a vegan diet without sufficient preparation. "If you don't know what you are doing it can backfire on your health," she says.
Abrupt changes to your diet can be harmful. And if you remove animal proteins from your diet you need to know how to replace them. "When people become vegan it has to be done properly – it’s about education and balance." Irvine's business has been providing vegan meals for 18 years but her chefs also cook with fish and meat.
Get Juicy - Home Deliveries
Many of the traders at the Market now offer home deliveries - see the full list here. These include boxes of seasonal salads, fruit and vegetables and freshly squeezed juices. For example, All Greens offer cold-pressed juices from Panzer's delicatessen and First Choice has a line of frozen smoothie mixes. Many companies also sell delicatessen and grocery lines, such as pasta, cheeses and household essentials.
If this is your first time ordering from our traders, check on their delivery range first. Some focus on postcodes in London using their own fleet of delivery vans while others use couriers to send their produce nationwide.
Boost Your Immune System
Wholesalers on the Market import a dazzling range of ingredients that can help to boost your immune system in 2021.
Roots such as ginger, ginseng and turmeric are increasingly popular. Fresh turmeric root is particularly in vogue - packed with antioxidants and renowned for its anti-inflammatory properties.
Fresh turmeric can be blended into fruit juices and smoothies. Chefs such as Yotam Ottolenghi are pushing recipes such as pickled baby turnip with fresh turmeric and orange or adding the root to a Malaysian fish and pineapple curry.
To prepare the root, wash off any dirt then either grate, bash or slice. It’s not essential to peel the turmeric first. Store any leftover root in the fridge or freezer. Fresh turmeric is widely available from companies on the Market.
Remember, too, that recent research has shown the importance of probiotics - a healthy balance of bacteria in the gut. "You feed those things on vegetables," explains Irvine. "The good ones like to live on vegetables … We have discovered this link between what you feel and what you are eating," explains Irvine. "We give our clients anywhere between 18-20 different fruits and vegetables a day."
Go Mad for Mushrooms
Sales of mushrooms are soaring - often used as replacements for meat in your diet. There's a dazzling variety to explore, such as the amazing King Oyster, famous for it's firm meaty texture, or the delicate Shimeji - delicious cooked in a light tempura batter.
Several wholesalers at the Market specialise in cultivated and exotic mushrooms, such as Mushroom Man and Bruce White, with its partnership with Bulldog Mushrooms. Members of the public can buy their product via other companies here which offer home deliveries - see the full list here.
You can find out more about growing exotic mushrooms from our trip to Smithy Mushrooms, a leading producer in the UK - see this article.
Discover Sea Vegetables
Foods for the future? Add seaweeds and sea vegetables to your list. These are highly nutritious, for a start. "There is 18 times more iron in sea spaghetti than in spinach," explains Irvine. Secondly, they are abundant in the coastline around Britain. "There are lots of nutrients in the sea vegetables in our seas." To find out more, see this general advice from Great British Chefs and The Cornish Seaweed Company.
Buy British after Brexit
Local food is typically nutritionally superior to imported produce. Nutrients fade after harvest, so travelling time to market is a key factor. The United Kingdom's exit from the EU has the potential to focus attention on British growers. For example, Chris Molyneaux has been growing kales for years. He's now perfecting the production of crops such as Tardivo radicchio, which has hitherto been supplied almost exclusively from Italy. It is surprisingly easy to follow the seasons eating mainly locally grown food. Right now, highlights include Yorkshire forced rhubarb, apples and pears, watercress and brassicas such as purple sprouting broccoli and January King cabbage.
Graze on Micros
Many companies on the market sell punnets of living microgreens: tiny seedlings of plants such as tarragon, basil, rocket, dill and coriander and which you snip to order - therefore preserving their full range of nutrients.
These micro herbs are packed with flavour but it's their health benefits that are a cause for wonder.
Market leader Koppert Cress is devoting much of their energy to explaining the health benefits of consuming plants at this stage in their life cycle and are launching a subscription service for their products.
Founder Rob Baan describes his range of microgreens as a “green pharmacy” and cites his BroccoCress as an example: a single seedling boasts the equivalent amount of sulforaphane, an "anti-cancer" compound, as a whole head of broccoli. For more info, see our Grower Profile on Koppert Cress.
In the Vale of Evesham, Westlands Wow is a British grower of similar products - you can browse their range online.
Thank you for reading our guide to kickstarting a healthy 2021. If you enjoyed the blog and would like to keep in touch you can subscribe to our email database here.