This is a wonderful time of year when the days get longer and we can spend more time outdoors. It's also the start of some new colourful and tasty vegetables and herbs growing in the UK. Why not try a new recipe this week from my ideas below: wild garlic pesto, beetroot hummus or a spring potato salad.
So what's in season?
March, April and May in the UK offers lots of fresh vegetables, some herbs and slightly less fruit (strawberries may make an appearance in May but only if the weather has been sunny enough).
Vegetables available in spring in the UK:
asparagus, purple sprouting broccoli, leeks, spinach, wild garlic, spring greens, broad beans, new potatoes, radishes, spring onions, green beans, cauliflower, cucumber, lettuce, carrots, beetroot, watercress, rocket, sorrel.
Herbs available in spring in the UK:
Chicory, chive and dill.
Where to buy these?
Some supermarkets will start stocking this produce from the UK, and possibly switch supplies from abroad for a period of time. However, if you want to support local farmers and guarantee freshness, try and shop at a local farm shop, farmers market or buy from a fruit and veg box delivery service for the most nutrient dense foods. I like Riverford (organic) or Oddbox.
There are environmental and health benefits of buying locally. The food hasn't travelled hundreds of miles, reducing food miles, and food recently picked is often at its most nutritious; it hasn't been frozen or preserved in some way so it contains all of its nutrients for you to enjoy.
What shall I make?
Why not try asparagus with dippy eggs and toast, or grilled asparagus served with fish or meat. Or add steamed purple sprouting broccoli or lightly steamed spinach as a side dish with your main meal? Leek and potato soup can be great on those chilly spring days. Or try some of the recipes below:
Wild garlic pesto
Wild garlic is growing in woodland areas right now (end of March). It has big flat green leaves, and smells garlicy when you break and rub it. Towards the end of its life, white flowers appear and the leaves become a little tough and bitter. So best to pick soon!
Garlic possesses antibacterial and possibly antiviral properties, and contains vitamins A and C, calcium, iron and phosphorus. Studies have shown that it may help reduce blood pressure. Interestingly, although all types of garlic have these benefits, wild garlic is thought to be the most effective at lowering blood pressure.
Wild garlic can be added to many dishes as shredded leaves e.g. in pastas, omelette, salads, but its delicious and can be eaten in large amounts as a pesto.
- Ingredients: large handful of wild garlic, handful of cashew nuts / pine nuts, olive oil, optional: 1/2 lemon juice, large chunk of parmesan cheese.
- Method: add the ingredients to a blender and blend till the right consistency is achieved. Add olive oil as desired.
Beetroot is actually available many months of the year in the UK, but its lovely pink colour makes it an especially pretty and spring-like accompaniment to a meal. Beetroot has some impressive health benefits, including reducing blood pressure, improving athletic performance during exercise (by improving oxygen use and endurance) and may help fight inflammation and improve digestive health (due to its fibre content).
Ingredients: 1 large beetroot, 1 tin of chickpeas, 1 tbsps tahini, 1 lemon juice, 2 clove of garlic (optional), pinch of cumin powder, olive oil for consistency.
Method: drain some of the water from the chickpeas but keep about half to use in the hummus mix (this liquid is called aquafaba and has a creamy consistency). Dice the beetroot into smaller chunks to make them easier to blend. Blend the ingredients in a blender and add olive oil as needed to get the right consistency. Serve on toast or with salad.
There are many lovely vegetable options to include in a spring salad, but here's an idea. This is perfect for lunch or dinner and you can add protein as you wish.
Ingredients: steamed new potatoes with butter and dill, some lettuce leaves, asparagus, green beans. Dressing: olive oil, dash of mustard and apple cider vinegar. Add roasted almonds or cashews as a topping, or some strips of chicken or beef to make this a very filling meal.
Method: steam the potatoes for 15-20 minutes. Once finished serve on a plate and add a little butter and sliced dill. Mix together. Add salad leaves, and steamed asparagus and green beans. Add the dressing at the end and mix together, and add the protein as desired.