Season's best

June marks the true start of summer, bringing with it plenty of fresh seasonal fruit and veg to enjoy. Use up summer gluts of courgettes by trying them raw in salads, chargrilled until smoky on the barbecue or even grated into cakes. Bright crisp radishes, spring onions and watercress all add punchy peppery flavour to salads and sides, whilst broccoli is a reliable addition to any easy summer dinner. In June, the abundance of fresh summer fruit means desserts require minimal effort – juicy fresh nectarines or big bowls of strawberries are all you need for a sweet way to finish a meal.

Courgettes

A member of the summer squash family, courgettes are harvested when young to ensure a stronger, sweeter flavour. Choose small, firm courgettes and store in the fridge. Try using them in a classic Cypriot meze dish: fry chopped onion and courgette slices in olive oil until golden. Season, add beaten egg and cook for 5 mins until scrambled and cooked through. Serve with Greek salad and crusty bread.

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Also in season...

Strawberries

Strawberries

These iconic berries are at their best from now until September. Store fruit unwashed in the fridge but bring to room temperature before eating to maximise their flavour. Today’s strawberries are juicy, aromatic and full of flavour. Due to modern farming techniques, our home-grown strawberries can be picked as early as March and as late as October. Strawberries have the highest vitamin C content within the berry family.

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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

Their crisp texture, vibrant colour and peppery flavour makes radishes a popular addition to salads. Choose radishes that feel firm and smooth. Once opened, store wrapped in kitchen paper in the fridge. To refresh radishes that have become soft, soak in a bowl of cold water for a couple of hours. For a fresh summer dip, mix natural yogurt with finely chopped fresh coriander, mint and red onion. Add grated radishes and lime juice; season. Drizzle with olive oil to serve.

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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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Watercress

Watercress

In the 1800s, hawkers in London sold bunches of watercress, which were bought and eaten as snacks. Like its cousin mustard, watercress has a strong smell and a bold, peppery taste (as hinted by its Latin name, Nasturtium officinale – Nasturtium means ‘nose-twister’. Both the leaves and stems are edible – just remove (or finely chop) any thicker stems, which can be tough.

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Spring onion

Spring onion

Less bitter than other alliums, spring onions have a fresh, peppery flavour and add a punch to all kinds of dishes. Don't discard the green tops: they have a milder taste than the white bulb. For spring onion bhajis, gently fry sliced spring onion with garlic, then mix with flour, ground coriander, cumin and lemon juice. Add water to make a thick batter, then bake tablespoons of the mix unti crisp and golden.

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Broccoli

Broccoli

Broccoli is thought to have been introduced to Britain from Italy in the 1700s, when it was sometimes called ‘Italian asparagus’. Its name translates as ‘little arms’. Like kale and cabbage, broccoli is a brassica, and is high in vitamin C and folic acid. Store in an airtight bag in the fridge. Although the stalks are tough, they are still edible. Try using them in a slaw: grate broccoli stems, carrots and red onion; toss with roughly chopped almonds. Mix mayonnaise with lemon juice, crème fraîche and torn basil leaves; season and stir through the veg.

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