In season: July

tomato kimAh July. Halfway through the year when New Year’s resolutions are a mere distant memory, but the sun shines bright to make us all happy despite our failings (well, in theory). The World Cup, the Tour de France, Bastille Day just around the corner… but way better than that, it’s finally tomato o’clock. Finally.

Forget the insipid offerings that insult the market stalls and supermarket shelves for the early months of the year, now the real red darlings have arrived. You can smell the greenhouse goodness just by smelling them, and the taste just has ‘garden’ striped through it like a stick of round, juicy rock. Seriously, I’m that excited. In fact, I probably won’t eat anything else for the next few months.

Only kidding, I’d be an utter fool to go that far given the vast array of wonderful seasonal produce on offer this month, with the fruit contingent really beginning to muscle in for once. Here’s a list of what’s good to stuff your kitchen with at the moment. Spoiled for choice? Oh aye (nod to Yorkshire there, given the le Tour and all). Never did a month spell ‘picnic’ like ‘July’ (if you tweak the letters a bit, obviously).

Apricot – abricot
Artichoke – artichaut
Aubergine
Beetroot – betterave
Broccoli
Cherry – cerise
Chicory – endive
Courgette
Cucumber – concombre
Fennel – fenouil
Green beans – haricots verts
Greengages – reine claude
Lettuce – laitue
Nectarine
Peach – pêche
Radish – radis
Raspberries – framboises
Rocket – roquette
Spinach – epinard
Strawberries – fraises
Swiss Chard – bette
Tomato – tomate
Watercress – cresson

And what’s the best thing to do with the pick of the mix, the humble tomato? The opportunities are endless, but sliced up, drizzled with olive oil and scattered with salt, pepper and basil is the greatest hommage you could give. Enjoy! (I’ll expect my picnic invitation in the post toute suite….)

In season: May

IMG_1630It’s fair to say I’m a big lover of vegetables. I even had a vegetable sandwich today (not I didn’t get squished between two carrots if that’s what you’re thinking, I put some peppers, spinach and a couple of our orange friends between two slices of bread – mmm mmm). And in terms of being a vegetable lover, things don’t get much better than May. One word for you. Asparagus.

Now allow me to digress. I used to frequently visit family who lived in the middle of deepest, darkest Norfok, where little green spears were very much appreciated. Weaving round the windy bends near their house in spring meant that you’d be greeted by an old farm cart, dominated with a sign saying ‘asparagus’ in big green letters. Ok, I can’t actually remember if they were green, but if they weren’t then they damn well should have been.

Now underneath was a less permanent sign that for most of spring, read in tantalising script ‘coming soon!’, as if it was promoting some kind of vegetable movie blockbuster. (Imagine if you will that gruff-voiced movie trailer guy… ‘In a field. In Norfolk. A tale of two spears, trying to make it in the world’). You could almost feel the fields in the vicinity buzzing in anticipation.

One day, when the farmer thought noone was looking, he would change the sign to read ‘NOW!’, and it would stay that way for the short few weeks that asparagus was in season. My sheer joy at being greeted with the latter as opposed to the former was quite simply way out of the proportion it should have been. But hey, I did state early on in the piece that I’m a massive fan of vegetables. (If said love of vegetables were in fact a epitomised in vegetable form, I think we can all safely assume that it would be a marrow). We’d head to the farmer’s patch of land and grab as many bunches as our eager fists could carry, and dine in style.

See, asparagus is a bit like the coolest of your cousins; the one who lives the furthest away, who you never see nearly as much as you’d like to. When you see him though, it’s so worth it. You hang off his every word as he recounts tales of his hip neighbourhood, awesome friends and charmed life. You know deep down however, that if he did come more often, the sheen would immediate fade, and somehow all of his tales would all of a sudden seem phoney and contrived.

And so it is with asparagus. The season for it is blink-and-you-miss-it short, usually only around six weeks. Thus it carries with it a certain amount of exclusive charm as you realise you’d better enjoy its fleeting presence on the nation’s market stalls before it’s usurped by average-joe summer berries. And just like your hipster cousin, spring’s king of legumes is delightfully low maintenance. In fact, the less you mess around with it, the better. Just snap off the woody ends, whip up a self-saucing poached egg, add a sprinkling of your finest salt and you’ve got perfection on a plate.

For those inexplicably adverse to a plate of delicious spears, here are some other fruit and veg good to eat now.

Broccoli – brocoli
Carrots – carottes
Chicory – endive
Lettuce – laitue
New potatoes – pomme de terres nouvelles
Peas – petits pois
Radishes – radis
Rocket – roquette
Spinach – epinards
Spring onions – oignons blancs
Watercress – cresson
White asparagus – asperges blanches (I’ve wittered on about the green version, but the white is good too – if you can be bothered to peel it…)

In season: March

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Now that the winter is definitely behind us, and the warm weather has come to join the party, there’s no excuse not to head out to the market to fill your boots with delicious seasonal fruit and veg. Here’s a list of what’s good to eat now.

Beetroot – betterave
Blood orange – orange sanguine
Brussels sprouts – chou de Bruxelles
Cabbage – chou
Carrot – carrotte
Cauliflower – chou-fleur
Celery – céleri
Chicory – endive
Jerusalem artichoke – topinambour
Leeks – poireau
Potatoes – pomme de terre
Radishes – radis
Spring onion – oignons frais
Turnip – navet

If you fancy getting creative with your spoils, then here’s a recipe for beetroot pie to impress the pants off your friends with, courtesy of the BBC. Enjoy!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/beetroot_pie_89195