As the winter closes behind us and the weather gets warmer, we can expect some new arrivals on the UK produce scene – delicate asparagus, delicious little Jersey Royal potatoes and, later on, juicy strawberries. It’s an exciting time of year, signalling the end of winter root vegetables and the start of a new season. That’s not to say UK produce is abundant during the spring – it’s also the period best known in farming terms as the ‘hungry gap’ when root vegetables are running out and the real bounty of summer has yet to start.
A century ago, the hungry gap really was a time of hunger, when resourceful cooks would draw on their winter preserves to sustain themselves during these meagre times. These days, our markets, shops and supermarkets supplement their supply with fruit and veg from further afield. Support your local farmers and seek out these tasty locally grown treats. If you’re struggling to find local prodcue at the moment, check out our online food delivery guide.
Here are our favourite recipes championing UK-grown springtime fruit and veg:
Asparagus marks the beginning of the end of the hungry gap as springtime produce starts to grow more bountifully. Expect asparagus in your shops and delivery boxes throughout May – these delicious delicate spears taste so much better than their imported cousins and are well worth the wait. Try them on this Shaved Asparagus Pizza. They also work wonders with rich flavours, paired with crème fraîche and Parmesan in this pasta recipe or on top of this oozy risotto recipe.
Jersey Royals are nutty, buttery little potatoes and the stars of spring. They really only need to be boiled and eaten with salt and pepper to be delicious but if you want to pep them up a bit, roast them with zesty lemon and garlic in this simple recipe. Alternatively toss through a springtime quinoa salad with asparagus and peas or Jamie Oliver’s Smoked Trout, Horseradish & New Potato Salad.
Lettuce and leafy salad greens are growing well at this time of year both on vegetable plots and wild in our gardens, hedgerows and fields. Got leftover lettuce? Did you know you can add it to soups and stews like this chicken one-pot dinner. If you’re lucky to have access to a woodland, look out for wild garlic growing in full at this time of year and throw it in an omelette with Caerphilly cheese.
Colourful, crunchy, peppery radish are at their best right now. Nadiya has a wonderful recipe for pickling them, as she says: “its vivid colour and delicious light flavour looks and tastes great on top of some sourdough and avocado”. That’s brunch sorted then. Otherwise try them alongside Meera Sodha’s Aubergine Katsu Curry.
Juicy, sweet strawberries mark the end of spring as we make our way into a warmer June – we love to eat them just as they are but if you’ve got a glut that need using quickly, roast them as Ottolenghi does until deliciously soft and sticky. Alternatively, use them to top this pretty Almond & Strawberry Tart.