Season's best

Signalling the start of summer, June brings bright and beautiful produce that adds vibrancy and fresh flavour to meals. From peppery watercress and radishes, to crisp celery and juicy nectarines, there's plenty to get excited about.

Fresh mint is a real hero of the June harvest, with it's versatile leaves adding unique taste to both sweet and savoury dishes. There are more than a dozen varieties of mint, each with a slightly different flavour profile. The most popular type, sold in stores, is spearmint. To prolong their life once picked, wrap damp kitchen paper around the stems and store in the fridge. Try crushing peas with chopped mint leaves and spread on toast. Top with griddled asparagus, crumbled feta, lemon zest and a drizzle of balsamic.

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Also in season...

Watercress

Watercress

Watercress, a relative of the mustard plant, has a strong peppery flavour. It's a source of folate and calcium, as well as being high in vitamin C. Watercress has been celebrated for its nutritional content for hundreds of years; it first appeared on a menu in the 1300s. There is a dedicated annual watercress festival near Winchester. Try using it to make a vibrant salad with griddled pears, Stilton and walnuts.

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Celery

Celery

This versatile vegetable works in soups, casseroles and salads, and is great for roasting, too. Tougher, outer stalks are best to cook with, while inner stalks are tender enough to eat raw – just trim the ends and wash. To revive limp celery sticks, trim a small amount off the root end and stand in lukewarm water for around 30 minutes.

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Nectarines

Nectarines

These sweet and juicy stone fruits are at their best from May to September. Although similar in taste and appearance to peaches, nectarines are slightly more acidic, with a smoother skin. Ripe nectarines have no green patches and are firm but give a little when gently squeezed. Keep in a fruit bowl and move to the fridge once ripe. Ripe nectarines are delicious raw. Under-ripe fruit benefits from being cooked: try poaching in Marsala with vanilla, then serving with mascarpone.

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Radishes

Radishes

Crisp and peppery, radishes are great for adding a savoury crunch to salads. Like watercress, radishes are a member of the mustard family. Historically, ancient Egyptians were paid in radishes for their work in building the pyramids. For a delicious summer snack, heat butter in a frying pan until foaming. Add the radishes; fry until softened. Squeeze over lemon juice and sprinkle with dukkah to serve.

Strawberries

Strawberries

The British strawberry season runs from March through to October. Strawberries belong to the rose family, along with raspberries and blackberries. Sunlight helps the strawberry plant produce natural sugars, which gives these ruby berries their sweet flavour. Look out for delicious varieties in store – great with soft cheeses, such as Brie or Camembert.

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