Of all the good things that come with midsummer – lawn tennis, pints out on the patio and grass stains on the cricket whites – an abundance of fresh seasonal food has to rank near the top. Whether it’s fruit, vegetables or fish, it’s all around this month and there’s plenty of it. And buying seasonal food has its advantages. Seasonal food can be bought locally and helps to support British producers. Moreover, local food comes with a reduced carbon footprint as it’s not shipped for miles and preserved for extended periods of time. So with 31 glorious days to feast on high summer specialities, we asked Eat the Seasons' editor Nick Gitsham to point out his best of the best to grace your plate, glass or barbeque this July.
Broad beans are in their prime this time of year, says Gitsham. ‘You have to eat them fairly quickly,’ he adds, or they lose their flavour – but loaded as they are with protein, fibre, vitamins A and C, potassium and iron, why wouldn’t you? Great when boiled, buttered and served with the Sunday roast, they also fit right into a soup or salad.
‘You want to catch them when they’re fairly small,’ says Gitsham. Older runner beans can get oversized or withered and can lose their crunchiness and juiciness. A good source of vitamin C and fibre, runner beans also carry folic acid, essential for numerous bodily functions including cell division and growth. A flexible food, runner beans can be boiled, steamed, stir-fried or eaten raw.
Gitsham describes gooseberries as ‘quintessentially English,’ and these perennial summer favourites are also a good source of fibre and vitamins A and C. A versatile fruit, according to Gitsham, gooseberries are great in cold puddings such gooseberry fool but also is hot puddings, pies and cobblers. You can also stew gooseberries and use some of the juice as an ingredient in purées, cocktails or mixed with other juices.
Raspberries, Scottish in particular, are highly sought, but the soft, fragrant fruits grow throughout the UK. They can be eaten raw with sugar andcream or made into a sauce to complement champagne, yoghurt or vanilla ice cream but you’ll need to move fast, as they go off after only a few days. Bursting with fibre, iron, potassium, and vitamins A and C, raspberries also contain the chemical beta-carotene, which helps fight heart disease.
‘Mackerel works particularly well in the summer because it’s one of the best fishes for the barbeque,’ says Gitsham. Barbequing is considered the best cooking method for mackerel, and for not much outlay, you get a big nutritional bang for your buck. ‘You don’t have to faff around too much when cooking mackerel,’ says Gitsham. Better still, mackerel is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B12, important for the formation of blood and the normal functioning of the brain and nervous system.
Blackberry, Raspberry and Fennel Salad
Combining aromatic fennel with raspberries and peppery watercress is an unusual way to deal with the soft fruit glut but works brilliantly. Try eating it alone for a light lunch or combine with cheese or meat for something more substantial. Serves four
½ fennel, very thinly sliced / shredded
85g watercress, thick stalks removed
1 round green lettuce, washed and dried
50g blackberries, washed and dried
50g raspberries, washed and dried
50g silken tofu
5½ tbsp good quality French dressing
1slightly rounded tbsp caster sugar
• Preheat oven to 200C / 400F / Gas mark 6. Spread walnuts on a baking tray and put in hot oven for about four minutes until lightly roasted. Remove from oven and cool.
• To make the dressing: Drain the silken tofu by putting it in a bowl lined with kitchen paper and patting dry. Transfer French dressing to a small liquidiser together with the silken tofu and the caster sugar. Blend for about 30 seconds until creamy. Put into a bowl ready to serve.
• Continue with the salad: Cut the cucumber in half lengthways, and then thinly slice to make half-moon slices. Mix these with the fennel and watercress
• Arrange whole green lettuce leaves on four plates, and pile the cucumber mixture on top. Scatter with the blackberries, raspberries and roasted walnuts and serve, passing the dressing round separately.
This recipe is one of twelve mouth-watering, monthly recipes, included in Season to Taste a collection of recipes using seasonal and locally sourced produce and is available free of charge by calling 0161 925 2000. © The Vegetarian Society – (recipe created by the Cordon Vert cookery school) www.vegsoc.org
New series In season now: what to eat in June
Asparagus, broccoli and summer squash are just some of the in-season British veg available this month. The Vegetarian Society’s Alex Connel picks his top five
Soft fruit special: how to make the most of the summer glut
Strawberries, cherries, blackberries and raspberries are all coming into season over the next few months. Valentina Jovanovski looks at how to make the most of the soft fruit glut
New series Ask the Ecologist: Which is best - local or organic?
Green Living Editor Ruth Styles answers your eco-lifestyle dilemmas. This week it’s the question of local versus organic produce under the spotlight
Five of the best…organic beers
Better for the environment and better tasting than mass-produced, imported lager; isn’t it time you gave real ale a go? We asked the Campaign for Real Ale’s Jon Howard to round up some of the best
Five of the best... environmentally friendly cookbooks
Greener eating doesn’t have to mean compromising on taste or quality, as these five books, reviewed by Valentina Jovanovski, prove