This sweet, sexy superfood is in season in Britain for just a few short weeks. So grab those melt-in-the-mouth spears while you can and feast! Asparagus is one luxury you can afford.
Try using perfectly cooked spears to dunk into soft boiled eggs.
Try asapargus griddled and served with a drizzle of your best extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, a squeeze of lemon juice and a grating of Parmesan.
Black Eyed Peas
Though it’s a southern tradition to eat ’em on New Year’s, black eyed peas flourish in the warm summer months and don’t hold up well in the cold. They’re excellent source of vitamin B1, as well as a good source of fiber, magnesium and zinc.
Work black eyed peas into salads or use them to make a dip for your next veggie platter. If you’re looking to keep things really easy, try making some in the slow cooker.
Broad beans are at their best from the end of May through to mid-July, when the pods are pale green and soft and the beans are still small.
Only brief steaming or cooking is required when broad beans are in their prime but, as the season progresses, the pods get bigger and tougher and then the beans are encased in a thick outer skin. The unappetising skins need to be removed and the beans should go into the pot straightaway. Once cooked, add a little butter and sprinkle with chopped summer savory or tarragon and serve as an accompaniment to roast lamb or a barbecued fish fillet. Give them an Italian twist by mashing freshly boiled broad beans with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and piling the verdant mash onto bruschetta for an easy summery nibble. They are also good for flavouring meat stews or lamb dishes. Egyptian ful medames is a dish of cooked broad beans (a small dried variety called ‘ful’) flavoured with garlic and lemon.
Chicory is available throughout the winter months. Choose chicory with crisp, fresh-looking leaves that are springy to the touch and tightly packed; there should be no sign of insect damage. Once picked and exposed to light, chicory leaves start to become more bitter, so they should be stored wrapped in paper to keep out the light and eaten as soon after picking as possible.
Chicory works best in composed salads rather than tossed with other, softer leaves. Raw chicory leaves are excellent eaten fresh, drizzled with a little vinaigrette, or stir-fried and served as a vegetable side dish. Whole heads of chicory can be baked, poached or griddled. Chicory is particularly good wrapped in ham, covered with a Béchamel sauce and baked in the oven.
Figs may be little in size, but they’re in the big leagues when it comes to nutrients.
“Figs are 80 percent higher in potassium than bananas and are extremely easy to digest. They also have more iron than most other fruits and are extremely high in magnesium,”The Los Angeles Times reports.“All of this for about 20 to 40 calories per fig. No wonder they are often called nature’s most nearly perfect fruit.”
The great thing about getting figs when they’re fresh and in-season is that you can keep things simple: wrap them with prosciutto for an indulgent treat or toss a few on a light, arugula-topped summer pizza. You can also chop a figs and throw them on top of your morning oatmeal.
French / Green Beans
If possible, purchase green beans at a store or farmer’s market that sells them loose so that you can sort through them to choose the beans of best quality. Purchase beans that have a smooth feel and a vibrant green color, and that are free from brown spots or bruises. They should have a firm texture and “snap” when broken.
Store unwashed fresh beans pods in a plastic bag kept in the refrigerator crisper. Whole beans stored this way should keep for about seven days.
Just prior to using the green beans, wash them under running water. Remove both ends of the beans by either snapping them off or cutting them with a knife. We recommend Healthy Steaming green beans for maximum flavor and nutrition. Fill the bottom of a steamer pot with 2 inches of water. While waiting for the water to come to a boil, rinse green beans. It is best to cook green beans whole for even cooking. Steam for 5 minutes and toss with our Mediterranean Dressing and top with your favorite optional ingredients.
Gooseberry recipes are a quintessential summer treat: Try gooseberry purée with mackerel or roast pork. Or pair them with elderflower for delicious gooseberry pies, tarts and crumbles. The high pectin content in the fruit, makes an ideal gooseberry jam.
For a sweet gooseberry sauce, top and tail green gooseberries before tossing them into the pan. Add sugar, to taste, and just a splash of water to prevent the fruit from burning. Cover and cook for a few minutes. Once the juices begin to bubble, uncover and cook until the fruit has broken down. In a rainy season, gooseberries exude more liquid than usual, so you may have to boil them down well if you want to make that classic June dish, gooseberry fool. Cool the cooked gooseberries, then fold into thick custard mixed with lightly whipped cream.
Kiwi fruit is packed with vitamin C — more than you need in one day. They’re also a good source of fiber and antioxidants.
You can just peel and eat kiwis, toss them into a salad or add them to a summer-y smoothie.
Also known as the snow or sugar pea, mangetout are a flat-podded variety of pea, eaten whole while the peas within are still very small – hence the French name, which means ‘eat everything’. Crisp and sweet, they can be served raw, or lightly steamed, boiled or stir-fried.
Mangetout are in season from June to September. Look for firm, vibrant green pods that aren’t limp or discoloured. Mangetout will remain crisp and fresh in the fridge for up to three days. They can be blanched and frozen, but may lose their characteristic crunch when defrosted.
New potatoes are potatoes from the early crop that are smaller than old (maincrop) potatoes. The most popular and well-known new potato is the Jersey Royal. The unique growing conditions in Jersey (the combination of the gentle climate, the steep slopes and the seaweed used as a fertiliser) produce these delicate new potatoes, which have the same Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status as Stilton and clotted cream, effectively giving their name EU-wide protection from potential imitators. Other varieties of new potato include Arran Pilot, Home Guard and Red Craig’s Royal.
New potatoes are delicious simply cooked in butter, added to Spanish omelette, simmered in a seasonal broth or made into salad. Leave the skins on as much of the flavour (and the vitamin C goodness) can be found just under the skins.
Frozen peas are available year round, but fresh garden peas are in season from early June until late July. Mangetout are undeveloped garden peas, picked while the pod is still edible. Similarly, petits pois are young garden peas that are picked and shelled when small, young and tender. Unlike mangetout pods, the pods of garden peas are too tough to eat, but popping fresh peas straight from the pod into your mouth remains one of life’s great pleasures.
Select fresh peas with bright green pods that are firm and plump.
Peas don’t need fussy preparation when they’re in season. Boil them briefly until just tender, add a knob of butter and season with black pepper, perhaps crushing them lightly with a fork before serving alongside grilled fish fillets or slices of boiled ham hock. Alternatively, cook up a prawn risotto, stirring in the peas, a sprinkle of chopped fresh mint and a squeeze of lemon juice just before serving.
For picnics, prepare a cold pasta salad and add peas or mangetout, a crumbly, tangy cheese such as feta, chopped mint and plenty of olive oil. Or make a Spanish-style tortilla and add fresh peas and leftover vegetables. When the weather’s hot, cool down with chilled pea soup, garnished with a swirl of cream.
The radish is a plant whose edible fuchsia and white root is used in cooking. The texture of the root is crisp and crunchy like a carrot and its flavour is hot and peppery. Radishes can be cooked but are arguably best raw, either added to salads, marinated in vinaigrette, or eaten as a snack with a sprinkling of celery salt.
When choosing radishes, look for bright green leaves, which indicate freshness and quality.
Fill a Victoria sponge with fresh raspberries for a taste of summer, or use them in a classic summer pudding. Try visiting a pick your own farm for the freshest raspberries.
The UK raspberry season runs from May until November. They’re cheapest from July to September.
Keep raspberries chilled in the top of the fridge, or freeze by spreading out onto baking trays and then bagging once frozen.
Bring fresh raspberries up to room temperature before eating to maximise their flavour. Puréed, sieved and sweetened raw raspberries make a good summer sauce to go with ice cream and grilled fruit. The fruit also has an affinity with cream and nuts.
Raspberries collapse easily when cooked, so mix with other fruit such as summer berries, rhubarb, peaches, or apples to maintain the texture of the dish.
Preserve raspberries in vinegar, cordials, jams and jellies (add redcurrants to aid setting in jams and jellies).
This peppery leaf is also known as arugula, particularly in the US. It’s a dark green salad vegetable, popular in Mediterranean countries. The leaves have a slightly bitter, peppery flavour and are gathered when they’re young. Rocket is a rich source of iron as well as vitamins A and C.
Home-grown rocket leaves are often speckled with small holes, but these taste just as good as unblemished leaves, so don’t despair.
Rocket makes a delicious addition to salads but can also be used to make soups and to replace basil in pesto. A bed of rocket is a good base on which to serve grilled poultry or fish.
Pick a normal onion early in the growing season and you’ll get a spring onion. Spring onions are useful for adding a marked onion note to dishes, particularly when used raw.
Spring onions should have dark-green leaves and fresh-looking roots. Choose firm bulbs with even-coloured skins and no signs of sprouting.
Serve spring onions in salads, or sprinkled over Chinese dishes (particularly steamed fish), or stirred into raita or traditional Irish champ (mashed potatoes speckled with chopped spring onions). They can also be brushed with olive oil and chargrilled whole.
The strawberry, a true symbol of warmer weather, is coming into its own this month. One serving of the low-calorie fruit packs more vitamin C than an orange and offers protection against heart attacks, cognitive declineand damage to the skin from UV rays. The high antioxidant content has also been credited with increasing HDL, or “good” cholesterol, says Vandana Sheth, R.D.N., C.D.E., a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Straight from the vine! Pick your own this season and burn some calories in the process. Or try them as a sweet addition to salads with balsamic vinegar, says Sheth.
So often thought of as a summer vegetable fruit, tomatoes actually improve as the summer progresses, so tomatoes bought at the beginning of autumn will have a most intense flavour. The flavour depends largely upon the variety and how the fruit has been grown and ripened: some cheap imported tomatoes are grown under polytunnels, picked under-ripe, then artificially ripened with ethylene gas, a plant hormone. Sun-warmed tomatoes picked straight from the vine are arguably the ideal way to enjoy tomatoes. Tomatoes are available to buy on and off the vine from supermarkets and farmers’ markets.
When choosing tomatoes, pick them up, feel them and smell them. Choose tomatoes that feel heavy for their size; they are more likely to be bursting with juices. Tomatoes with no smell will probably have no flavour, so opt for those with a pleasant aroma (although the aroma released by tomatoes on the vine are usually due more to the vine than the tomatoes themselves).
Sun-dried tomatoes are available from some supermarkets and Italian delicatessens.
Get more flavour from tomatoes by removing the plastic packaging and leaving them in a fruit bowl in a sunny spot to ‘breathe’ and ripen. Never put them in the fridge as this will diminish their flavour and damage their texture. Tomatoes do not withstand freezing very well. Use under-ripe, green tomatoes for making chutney and over-ripe tomatoes to make soups or sauces – these can then be frozen for up to six months.
Watercress leaves have a mustardy bite that makes them natural bedfellows to strongly flavoured meats such as game. The leaves are most commonly served raw as a garnish to eggs or meat, or as part of a salad with orange segments. Watercress also makes a pleasingly peppery soup that is as good hot as it is chilled.
Two words: vitamins and variety.
“Summer squash and zucchini are at their peak freshness in summer and low in calories and fat,”Eating Well reports. “You also get vitamins C and A, but the best part is they shine in savory and sweet recipes alike, so you can bake them up in tempting quick breads as well.”
Zucchini is great in summer salads, cooked as a side or in baked goods. As an added bonus, June is a prime-time for zucchini flowers (pictured here) which can be quickly fried for an appetizer.