Continuing our series on seasonal produce, we take a look at what’s in season in the summer months. Summer is a great time for fresh produce, with many British classics such as asparagus and strawberries leading the way. We’ve selected some of the stand-out summer fruit and veg; and make sure you check out the chilled section of our shop too, as we stock a lot of seasonal produce.
Here’s our feast of summer fruit and veg:
Apricots are a member of the peach and nectarine family, and thrive in a warm climate. As a result, the British apricot season is in the summer months, from May to September, when our weather is at its best (hopefully).
With a soft velvety skin and juicy flesh, apricots are a versatile fruit that can be used in many different ways: from poached, stewed or eaten raw. They are a great ingredient for desserts and can be used to make tarts and crumbles. And of course, whatever you can’t eat, you can turn into jams, chutneys or compotes to eat later in the year.
Although imports of asparagus are available all year round, the British crop (which is believed to be the best) is only available for a tantalisingly brief time from May to July.
Asparagus is considered one of the delicacies of the vegetable world – it deteriorates quite quickly after picking, which is why freshly picked English asparagus is considered much better than jet-lagged imported asparagus.
It has a distinct, intense savoury flavour, and requires minimal preparation if it’s been picked fresh. Simply snap off the woody ends and boil or steam for roughly 3-5 minutes depending on size. Serve with hollandaise sauce for a traditional meal, or wrapped round with prosciutto for something a little different.
After years of over-boiling, unappetising vegetable lasagnes and ratatouille, courgettes are having somewhat of a renaissance. Part of the cucumber and squash family, courgettes have a deep green skin and firm, pale fresh, and are known as zucchini to Italians and Americans.
With a fresh, delicate flavour, this vegetable is wonderfully versatile and can be eaten raw, cooked on a griddle, in a stir fry, or even fried in a light batter and served as an alternative to chips.
For the best courgettes, pick smaller ones that are firm to touch with an unblemished skin, as they will have more flavour than the larger, squishier varieties.
Not to everyone’s liking, much like Marmite, you either love or hate fennel because of its strong aniseed flavour. It has a bulb-like shape and green tufts of leaves, making it look like a slightly bizarre celery.
When selecting fennel, try and select the smaller bulbs, as they are often more tender. You can use the leaves as garnish or simply discard. If you’re looking for inspiration, try roasting it whole with garlic, and serving it with slow-roasted pork. Alternatively, you could slice the bulb very thinly and create a tasty fennel and potato gratin.
A British summer would not be complete without enjoying a punnet or two of fresh strawberries. Although traditionally they were only available in Britain during the brief summer months from late May to early September, you can now get strawberries year round thanks to imports from warmer countries. But we think they just don’t taste the same.
Plump, shiny, with a fragrant aroma and oh-so-juicy taste, strawberries can be added to so many different recipes. Of course, you can eat them raw with a splash of cream, ala Wimbledon, but they can also be added to salads, used to make tarts or top puddings, and if, for some reason, you have any left over, then try making your own homemade jam.
Why not try growing your own strawberries at home? Delightfully simple, all you need is a small patch in the garden or a pot on a sunny windowsill. Just make sure you use netting or something similar to protect the small fruit from the birds.
What’s your favourite summer fruit and veg? Let us know below!