Cooking: What’s In Season Now?

Cooking: What’s In Season Now?

Raspberry

 

Tailoring your ongoing menus to keep in tune with the changing seasons is at the heart of many a homely kitchen. There are many benefits to following the seasons, not least because whatever it is you will find yourself cooking will be at its most delicious.

Buying locally is something that I’m a big advocate of, and I’d recommend that you always make the effort to do so if you want your food to always taste as delicious as can be.

Consider the humble tomato, for instance. Right now, with the sun blazing outside (well, sort of), the hot climes and the sense and smell of abundance in the air, the British tomato is at its very best. Properly grown, vine-ripened tomatoes that are brought along nice and slowly under glass until they reach a deep, rich redness are amongst the very best things one could possibly hope to ever eat.

Conversely, those rock hard, pale orange, watery snooker balls that have travelled several thousand miles to be sold off the vine in packs of six at supermarkets are amongst the very worse.

They just simply aren’t tomatoes by any standards. Granted, you can buy them all year round, which seems to be viewed as a positive by many non-discerning shoppers and cooks. However, I would disagree most vehemently.

When fruits and vegetables are out of season, yet still available on the supermarket shelves, then one of two things is likely. They have either been shipped in from warmer climes, which means that they will have been pickled when unripe to allow for the time delay in transit (supermarkets of course demand a sell-by-date of at least 3 days for everything they sell), or otherwise forced along under artificial conditions in some factory farm somewhere a little closer.

Either way, the end result is insipid at best, vile at worst, though invariably watery and absolutely tasteless.

The Benefits Of Using What’s In Season

There are three main reasons why I would like to advocate the sole use of in-season fresh fruit and vegetable produce for home cooking.

Reason the first: You will be helping to clean up the environment by reducing the amount of food miles that such produce has to travel before it reaches your fridge at home. We don’t need to eat fresh tomatoes in December – especially tasteless ones. Instead, I much prefer to use a tin of tomatoes at this time of year, or reach for the tomato ketchup, chutney or relish that I made in the summer to preserve them. Sometimes I make big batches of roasted tomato passata and store it in the freezer for winter – making preserves like this is a much better technique for extending gluts of anything all year round.

Reason the second: The flavour. When you stick to the seasons, you know that the produce that you are using will have always been picked at its very best. And there is no substitute for outstanding flavour when it comes to cooking.

Reason the third: You can be really, really greedy. There is a misconception, I think, that by sticking to only eating fruits and vegetables that are currently in season is to in some way deprive yourself. I happen to believe that the reverse is true. I know every year around June when the first local raspberries start coming into season that I’ve only got a couple of months to get my fill of these little delights before they’ve gone completely out of my life again for another 10 months. And so I gorge on them – I make trifles and summer puddings, eat them in fruit salads and for dessert with single cream, double cream, clotted cream and ice cream. I make raspberry pavlova, raspberry cheesecake, raspberry soufflé’s and raspberry pies and tarts. And then, just to make sure I’ve got some proper British raspberry products all year round, I make raspberry jams, vinegars, wines, ices and ice creams – I even freeze some whole. No, the raspberry (or any other fruit or vegetable) season is not a time of depravity, but one of greed and glut, and, so long as you treat all of what’s available now with the same amount of enthusiasm and celebration, then you should never feel like you’re missing out, no matter what time of year it is.

What’s In Season Now?

Here we are right slap bang in the middle of August, which means that there is absolutely no shortage of available British fruit and veg. As a general rule of thumb, the four seasons go something like this:

  • Spring: Best for leafy greens.

  • Summer: Best for soft fruits and legumes.

  • Autumn: Best for hard fruits, squashes and roots.

  • Winter: Best for roots and brassicas.

So, since we’re now approaching the end of the summer and moving into early autumn, what should we be looking out for at the local greengrocers and supermarkets? The list below should give you a good idea:

Salad
Tomatoes
Cos Lettuce
Cucumber
Spinach
Iceberg Lettuce

Fruits
Bramley Apples
Cherries
Raspberries
Plums
Blueberries

Veg
Celery
Cauliflower
Marrow
Runner beans
Red Cabbage
Carrots
Savoy Cabbage
Peas
Courgettes
Leeks 
Spring Greens

I think you should be able to rustle up something with all that!!