Flavours of June
June is a time of some truly wonderful seasonal produce – including the universal favourite, the strawberry. The star of the season, it is worth waiting for the British varieties instead of settling for the inferior year-round offerings from overseas. The Scottish crop is the best – it takes up to 70 days to ripen (compared to 45 days in the south of the country), meaning they are taking in all that extra goodness from their surroundings. They are a versatile fruit, but for me they are at their best served with little more than a splash of cream!
They aren’t the only berries that will be coming to the market. From the UK, be on the lookout for locally grown blackberries and blueberries. Gooseberries are another summer berry that will be fabulous at this time – they have returned to popularity in recent years, and the demand for local fruit far outstrips the supply. Get your order in quick with your supplier to make sure you don’t miss out! The berry offering is completed with the Tulameen raspberries from France, which are simply amazing.
June will see the very end of the local asparagus season. It ends as abruptly as it starts, but with so many other options becoming available we are spoilt for choice. It’s pea and bean heaven – Yorkshire garden peas and broad beans take centre stage. Get the freshest you possibly can – the less time between the plant and the plate the better! If you fancy something a bit different, the Italian borlotti bean is an expensive but amazing alternative.
There has been a move back to traditional British staples like the standard English cauliflower and broccoli in recent seasons. New cooking methods make them once again an exciting option – for me, BBQ cauliflower florets are a great example of this. The other sizes and varieties are being used as well – a welcome move away from the regular supermarket spec means more exciting ingredients for chefs and more variety for growers.
A tremendous veg option is the summer primo cabbage. At less than a pound per serving, there are few vegetables that are such good value for so much taste. The green leaves and white and yellow flesh are perfect shredded and cooked with butter and pepper: mouth watering.
Root vegetables become really sweet at this time – take a look at carrots, the beetroot selection, leeks and white turnips. And don’t forget the baby vegetables – beetroot, carrots, fennel, leeks and navet are all spectacular, as are the amazing micro salad onions from Scotland.
A regular on our table in June is the Lincolnshire Ulster Prince potato. The beautiful creamy, waxy flesh just melts in your mouth with an amazing flavour. They are definitely worth tracking down – the Jersey Royal is the more well-known of the new potatoes, but for me, the Ulster Prince wins hands down.
Of course, the summer months mean it’s time for salad. Local watercress will develop a lovely dark green appearance from fresh water and sunshine – the peppery flavour is really pronounced in the seasonal British crop. Baby leaves are abundant, and chocolate mint and lovage will be here to complement your herb selection. Flowers are also taking an important place on all menus and you can get a wide selection with bean, cucumber, borage and viola blooms all readily available.
To go with the salad, there are heritage tomatoes available in every shape, size and colour. The seasonal crops are vastly superior to some of the watery options available at other times of the year. Don’t forget to look at the whole range of varieties available – the datterino baby plum, amore cherry, the beautifully ribbed couer de boeuf, as well as the green zebra and yellow grape. Served simply with some fresh basil and burrata or mozzarella, they really can’t be beaten.
Stoned fruits are classic for summer, and apricots are not to be missed. They thrive in hot European countries, but for me the French Provence apricots are the pick of the crop. They will be just stunning: juicy, with a deep colour and the perfect texture – and of course flavour! But don’t just stick to the orange-coloured fruit – try the white, pink and rose apricots too. There’s even a black plum hybrid – worth a try for something a bit different. Yellow and white peaches and nectarines are another great choice. The best for me are the Paraguayan flat peaches – so filled with juice they are messy to eat! But definitely worth it.
Eating cherries in the summer sunshine is a treat for June – they are all fantastic at this time, but the French Avignon – a massive crunchy dark red one – steals the show.
And finally, for something a little bit different, try pheasant eggs. About half the size of a hen’s egg, with larger yolks than quails’ eggs, they can add a twist to some of your favourite dishes. They are best before the end of June.
As always, the summer months will see a huge influx of sensational seasonal produce – just make sure you make the most of it!