A Spring Plate

A Spring Plate

As we have discussed previously, Spring in Britain is not what you might expect in terms of food crops - and this period of very little new produce is known as The Hungry Gap.

In some respects, it compromises the better part of Spring, certainly the early part, but as we leave April and move into May we can start to get excited - the warmer months are here and we are able to prep and cook with fresh, bright and colourful fruits and vegetables.

Of course, you will have continued to see most, if not all, of this produce on the supermarket shelves, as goods are imported from foreign climates - often from as far afield as Thailand, Mexico and Israel. Whilst this may satisfy the customers appetite for variety all year round it has a considerable impact on the environment as the carbon footprint is hefty. Further, it may be full of preservatives to help improve its shelf life - seasonal produce is fresher, tastier and far more nutritious.

So, let’s delve into a few faves that we are excited to fill our plates with this Spring - all home grown, fresh and delicious and remember if you can, support the local community by buying from local greengrocers or ideally directly from farms and farmer's markets.

Starting with the humble potato, but not just any potato - the arrival of the Jersey Royal is joyous and always says summer and alfresco dining is incoming! They have a distinctive nutty flavour but the texture is the highlight, firm yet creamy - a real treat. They are perhaps at their best gently boiled and served with a small knob of butter and perhaps a hint of garlic or fresh herbs. They are a delicious side to simply cooked meat, fish or tofu.  

After the Jersey Royal comes the Cornish Early … taking us through the summer and providing a delicious summery staple to accompany long lazy lunches in the garden - weather permitting, but rest assured they taste equally good sat inside around the kitchen table!

To sit nicely next to the potatoes on the plate, and add a little colour are three green and gorgeous spring vegetables - asparagus, greens and peas.

The green spears of asparagus are full of healthy vitamins - choose firm, vibrant stalks and roast in a little oil. Alternatively, they make a lovely light summery soup and are delicious in a risotto. If cooking you can perhaps take a slightly sadder softer looking bunch as you are cooking them anyway - waste not want not.

Riverford have a great page all about Asparagus where you can find recipes, learn about three varieties (green, purple and white) and meet some of the growers.

Next, spring greens are the first of the new season cabbages – their dark green leaves are softer than winter cabbages and they are delicious simply sautéed with oil and garlic or perhaps topped with toasted seeds.

Finally peas, we undoubtedly all have a bag of frozen peas in the freezer and they are a great vegetable to add to many meals throughout the year. But fresh spring peas are in season from May to August - and are a great vegetable to add some crunch to a salad or stir fry. You can also enjoy the pea shoots as a fresh garnish for sandwiches.

And onto the sweet tasty delights of seasonal spring fruits - as with vegetables, eating seasonal fruits ensures peak flavour, freshness and goodness.

Whilst rhubarb is actually a vegetable, it's commonly used in sweet dishes so you'll forgive us for mentioning it alongside the fruit. Its bright reddy pink stalks make a pretty filling for a pie or crumble but for a lighter spring pudding, place on top of filo pastry squares for an eye catching tasty tart.

Apricots make their appearance in the spring too - a sweet yet slightly tart flavour they make an excellent jam or topping for yoghurt or simply eaten as a healthy mid afternoon snack.

But, there has to be one standout and that’s the strawberry.

One could go so far as to say there is little as mouthwatering and delicious as a sweet perfectly ripe spring strawberry! They are high in vitamin C and can be eaten on their own as a ‘healthy snack’ or serve swimming in cream for a quintessentially British summer pudding - or to be even more decadent make a pavlova! Of course, you can also chop them and add to cereal and yogurt for a healthy nutritious breakfast and if one or two in the punnet are looking a little worse for wear then don’t discard, just blitz with other ingredients to make a refreshing smoothie.

At The Tale of a Teaspoon - it’s all about sustainability - a big part of which is eating seasonally - so enjoy the bountiful crops of our amazing British Spring fruits and vegetables whilst they are here. Buy from local groceries and farm shops when you can and get geeky about where your food comes from and how it's been grown. Take a moment to savour the smells, tastes and textures because before you know it they will be gone again for another year!