Flavours of June

June is the month of Juno, the symbol of maternity, abundance and fertility in Latin mythology. And it announces the start of English summer, bringing with it cherries and strawberries – an abundance of sweetness and flavour.

Both cherries from southern areas and strawberries from our local producers are at their best with the melt-in-the-mouth texture and gorgeous flavours. The northern strawberries from Scotland and even Yorkshire don’t have the usual perfection of the fast-grown fruits of the south, but they do have the intensity of flavour and the perfect complex mix of sweetness and acidity due to their longer growing period –  they are just delightful. I have fantastic memories of eating stolen strawberries in a garden in June, so they always remind me of my of youth and simple happiness.

But June is not just about strawberries and cherries, it’s also the month where Spanish apricots are now at their best. Other stone fruits like peaches and nectarines will start their journey from Seville, and Southern Italy will give us the first flat peaches of the summer and some delicate but delicious melons. June really is the start of the fruit season and they’re beginning to taste as good as we’ve dreamed they would all winter.

To go with these gorgeous fruits, we can re-discover fresh dairy now that cows are grazing outdoors – the perfume of the fresh grass is apparent in the cream they produce. Goat’s and cow’s cheese as well as cottage cheese are perfect with these summer fruits or with fresh herbs and salt. Cottage cheese with its fresh flavour is fantastic with mint and fine herbs as a savoury side to the early potatoes. The young Jerseys will just be finishing, so look now to Lincolnshire and the Ulster Prince! An all round must – great taste, brilliant to roast!

June is also about crisp salads – mustards and lettuces. And garden peas and early carrots, all perfect ingredients for your kitchen! The freshly-picked, young tender carrots, little onions and garden peas will also make a fantastic Jardiniere sauce.

June is also a good month for the first early chickens and ducks, even the eggs are considered some of the best seasonal ingredients! Try a young duck of the season roasted with peaches. Serve with a bottle of Chateau Latour 2013, a Chenin blanc cépage from the north side of the Loire, a young leafy salad, a piece of good cheese and bread finished with strawberries and whipped cream – and you’ll be in summer heaven!

Don’t miss the young turnips, with their buttery flesh or the early cabbages that taste so lovely, it’s like you’ve never tasted them before! Watercress is also at its best, emerging from the temperate waters, the boost of the spring giving it it’s delicate but spicy power that goes so well with grilled meats, herby soups or salads.

From sunny, southern France we will have the first good heritage tomatoes, and stunning Italian tomatoes that are just perfect with the basil and mozzarella di buffalo.

Last but certainly not least, we cannot forget the majesty of the humble cauliflower from our producers. It has a strong but balanced perfume and can be used raw, boiled, steamed, grilled or roasted – try it with passion fruit on top, the combination of the flavours is just the right taste – try it and let us know what you think!

There is so much fresh produce in June – all at its finest – that there is almost too much to choose from: fruits and veggies, cheeses and meat, roots and salads! Although most produce is ready and fresh, any change in the weather can completely change our June plans – it’s a tricky month to predict! Rain can come strong or light followed by bright sunshine which can burn the leaves of outdoor vegetables.

But June really is a happy, abundant mess of fresh early summer flavours. So just enjoy it!