Flavours of August
August is the peak of summer, when the British climate is best suited to ripening fruit as well as harvesting vegetables, so there’s plenty of sweet home grown fresh produce to try. It’s also the start of grouse season on the Glorious Twelfth, and naturally there’s lots of options for seasonal produce to pair with this wonderfully versatile meat.
English flat runner beans and fine beans are both fresh in. Great sources of vitamins A, C and K, they pair well sautéed with mushrooms. Scottish girolles, also fresh in, would be a great match too. Another gem is the English bobbi bean, similar to the Kenyan fine bean but far more tender. These beans have short seasons so order now.
For a stronger, more intensely flavoured vegetable, try sticcoli, a hybrid of broccoli and Chinese kale, or super fresh Yorkshire kale. Both are perfect sautéed, stir-fried, steamed or lightly boiled.
British broccoli makes a comeback in August with its delicious tender stems. As well as green and white broccoli are also available at this time of year. To brighten up your menu, we have cauliflower in yellow, orange, purple and green Romanesque varieties. There’s a new carrot crop this month too, both sweet and crisp. White, yellow, purple and orange carrots make vibrant options delivering on look, flavour and nutritional values.
Stoned fruit can’t be beaten in August and British varieties are a must. More and more growers are choosing to grow cherries, so there are fabulous varieties available countrywide such as our juicy Oakchurch cherries. Since freshness in cherries means more flavour and even more crispy juiciness, the less they have to travel the better. Is there a finer dessert than an English cherry pie? There’s also a huge selection of perfectly ripe British plums such as the opal now becoming available to replace imported varieties such as the French president. A continental option is the French Mirabelle plum, also known as the Mirabelle prune, from the Lorraine region. These plums are easy to spot with their dark yellow-coloured skin and smooth textured flesh full of flavour. Look out for the first damsons. These small and vibrant plums have dramatic dark blue skins and a concentrated flavour and perfume.
August is the last month for superb peaches, nectarines and apricots, but they can all be frozen for autumn and winter. For something a little different, try a blood peach such as the Nourrit or the flat Paraguaya Nourrit. There are still plenty of options for UK berries this month. A decade ago, producers prioritised achieving the best yield and appearance, but now, thank goodness, the focus is all about flavour. I find Loch Ness blackberries particularly good this time of year due to the Scottish climate. If each little pod looks like it’s about to burst, this means it will be nice and sweet; if picked before this stage, they’ll be bitter. For raspberries, seek out Tulameens and, and for blueberries, the Brigitte or the Bluecrop varieties are the best. Currants are also perfect right now. We stock blackcurrants, redcurrants and whitecurrants, and although they’re available fresh, you’ll get a better flavour if you blast freeze them.
August is also the perfect time to be adventurous and try some of the forgotten berries like the tayberry, a cross between a blackberry and a raspberry, and the jostaberry, a blackcurrant and gooseberry hybrid or the Worcester berry. Surprise your customers with a twist on another English classic – a gooseberry tart made with red not green gooseberries.
There’s plenty to forage for in our woodlands this month, from wild bilberries and cherries to mushrooms, which all pair well with grouse. Other wild delights include sea aster, sea beet, beach coriander, sweet cicely and wood sorrel, all useful for adding unusual seasonal flavours to summer dishes.
Weather permitting, the first English apples will be ready to eat month. My personal favourite is a fresh Discovery apple. This variety loses its sweet and sharp taste after three weeks so you need to order them as soon as they’re picked. Crab apples are most often used by school children as ammunition, but come August they make their way onto the summer menus of adventurous chefs. Experiment with them while you wait for the glorious English apple harvest that comes with late summer and autumn in September.