What’s in season in May?
publication date: May 6, 2010
author/source: Fiona Beckett
The season for English asparagus is short so take advantage - it has an absolutely fantastic flavour. Don’t be put off by spears that look uneven and wonky or even very thin. You’ll need to snap off the spears about two thirds of the way down before they start getting stringy or woody. The best way to cook them is to steam them but if you haven’t got a steamer simply put the spears in a frying pan with about half a mug of water, bring to the boil and cook for 2-3 minutes, shaking the pan so they cook evenly. Or put in a microwaveable dish with a couple of tablespoons of water, cover with cling film, pierce the film in a couple of places then microwave on high for 3-4 minutes depending how thick the stems are. Leave to rest for a minute then serve with melted butter or cold in a salad. If you’ve bought more than one bunch cook them one at a time. (See other ideas under how to cook asparagus here)
Should be in the shops by the end of month. Obviously you have to pod them which may put you off but it is actually quite soothing and therapeutic on a summers day. Purists also remove the outer skins of each bean when they’ve cooked them but I reckon that is a step too far particularly this early in the season. Once you’ve cooked them (by boiling them for 4-5 minutes in lightly salted boiling water) they’re delicious added to a little chopped onion and bacon fried in olive oil and seasoned with mint Spanish tapa-style
The new season’s carrots should be appearing in markets and shops any time now. You’ll recognise them because they’re smaller and thinner than the ones you’ve been eating through the winter and are sold with their leaves. All you need do is scrub them, slice them, toss them in a pan with a little oil and melted butter, season them with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar, add a couple of tablespoons of water, cover the pan with a lid or a piece of foil and let them cook very slowly in their own juices for about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley if you have some
Available all year round but cheaper at this time of year. If you don’t want it to make your salad soggy, de-seed it by cutting the cucumber in quarters lengthways and cutting away the seeds. The skin is a matter of taste (I like it) but remove it with a vegetable peeler for a milder flavour
You might not think of cheese as seasonal but this is the best kind of year for fresh young goats cheeses - delicious just spread on wholemeal bread, pitta bread or crispbread. Cheeses that are a few days older and firmer can be crumbled over salads - they go really well with spring vegetables like asparagus and broad beans, beetroot and herbs, especially dill.
Should in theory be cheaper at this time of year but you wouldn’t think so from the prices supermarkets charge for those poxy little packets. Buy whole bunches of parsley, mint, dill and coriander in Asian and middle-eastern grocers for a fraction of the price and use them lavishly. Parsley will keep in a jam jar of water on the windowsill. Mint and dill need to be wrapped and kept in the salad drawer of the fridge. Coriander is best plunged into a tall glass of water then covered with a plastic bag, secured with a rubber band and kept in the fridge door. Change the water every couple of days and wash all herbs before you use them. If you live in a student house you could buy a few pot herbs like chives, rosemary and thyme from a garden shop and grow your own
Almost a dying breed now that we’ve all got the packaged salad habit but just compare the price of an old fashioned round lettuce with a bagged one and you’ll see it’s worth washing a few leaves. Just strip off any damaged or dirty leaves on the outside of the lettuce, pull off the other leaves, wash them in cold water then drain them and pat them dry with a clean kitchen towel (or whizz in a salad spinner if you have one). Serve with your favourite salad dressing. Any leftover leaves can be kept in a plastic bag in the fridge
Home-grown ones are coming into season now - Jerseys are the best but also the most expensive. All you need do is give them a bit of a rub in cold water to get rid of the papery skins. Cut the bigger ones in half so they’re all the same size, put them in a pan, cover them with boiling water, bring them back to the boil, add a bit of salt and boil them for about 10-15 minutes until you can stick the point of a knife in them easily. Then drain them and add a good lump of butter and a few chopped herbs such as parsley or chives if you have some. Mmmmm.
Like salad, spinach normally comes in pricey bags but at this time of year you should be able to buy it loose. Tip the leaves into a sinkful of cold water and wash thoroughly. Pull off the stalks and central rib of any particularly large leaves. Drain off the water and pack the spinach into a large lidded saucepan. Place over a low heat and cook until ithe leaves start to collapse down. Turn over and cook for a couple of minutes over then drain thoroughly in a colander or sieve. Return to the pan with a good chunk of butter, reheat and season with pepper. Too much hassle? Use frozen (but buy whole leaves not chopped spinach which collapses to a mush) You can also use raw spinach leaves in a salad - great with bacon and blue cheese - or add a handful of shredded leaves to a vegetable soup for colour.
Like most veg they’re cheaper if you don’t buy them ready prepared. Simply cut off the roots and the top half of the green tops and remove any damaged outer leaves. Then either slice across finely (best if you want to add them to a salad) or cut them in half or quarters lengthways, and again in half to give you fine strips (better for stir fries or if you’re using them as a garnish). They have a milder flavour than ordinary onions and are good added to egg dishes like frittatas.
Has been completely overtaken by rocket but why? It has the same peppery flavour and can be quite a bit cheaper. The best place to buy it is off market stalls or old fashioned greengrocers or if you're lucky enough to live near one, direct from the grower. Just take the bunch in your hand dunk it in cold water and give it a good shake then twist off the ends of the stems so you’re just left with the leaves at the top. Makes good strong-flavoured salads along with spinach or a tasty, healthy salad garnish. (It’s rich in iron and vitamin C). Don’t throw away the stalks - use them in a soup or a stir-fry