Flavours of May
May is the month of new life and spring, associated with rebirth and renewal – very fitting for new menus! The name May is linked to the Greek Maia, the goddess of growth and nurturing and Maya in Hinduism – the concept of creation – and to Christianity as Mary the mother of God.
Chickens are out foraging and laying more than ever at this time of year, the lambs are starting to grow and eat the green spring grass, and orchards and vegetable gardens are starting to give us the first real crops.
Asparagus is the king of May. Introduced to us by the Italians, the revival in asparagus growing in the UK means there are lots of varieties from different growers and terroirs – all of which will exceed your expectations. It’s amazing how a simple product can offer a wide range of taste, size, colour and density of flavour. We‘re talking purple top, pink and green and don’t forget the French white which will be available too – no bitterness just amazing taste. The different ways of caring for the asparagus also has a significant impact on the diversity of the UK crop – some grown in lime soil, others in a lime-free soil, some under polytunnels and others in a windy area. This all contributes to the look and taste of the varieties of asparagus and can really add some interest to your menu.
May is also the month of mushrooms – particularly St Georges, named as they begin to appear at the end of April around St George’s Day and of course morels. These are by far the best spring mushrooms – the morels’ earthy nutty flavour is at its best now and the St George’s are fantastic with fresh eggs and wild garlic. We will also have some girolles available from Portugal at this time of year.
Onto fruit as we get the first peaches, nectarines and apricots from Spain – giving us the first hint that summer is on its way. Lots of lovely colours and juicy flavours with good prices to match the size and taste.
Green almonds will be at their best now and are fantastic as a tapas, just add salt and a hint of olive oil – just make sure they are always fresh.
May is also the time to rediscover artichokes which make wonderful sharing options on your menu, and the first tender turnips with buttery flesh will be ready. Some salads will also be ready now – the lettuces are fantastic cooked or raw. Mesclun salad is also fresh and flavoursome.
Baby vegetables like leeks, white turnip, beetroots, carrots and fennel will appear this month.
Outdoor UK strawberries from England start at the end of the month– the first are grown in polytunnels and will be good up until November joining the delicious French gariguettes. These Strawberries from Bruce farm are also coming in a biodegradable punnet, making us more sustainable.