Season's best

Summer is in full swing and July brings plenty of seasonal fruit and veg to enjoy in the sunshine. Courgettes and peas bring fresh flavour to a variety of summer dishes, whilst earthy beetroot adds bold colour. Barbecued or griddled sweetcorn is a smoky, charred addition to any alfresco feast. For puddings, it's all about berries. Make the most of the short gooseberry season by swirling them into creamy fools or baking into cakes for picnics. Blackberries and cherries are also in abundance throughout July, making it easy to whip up sweet fruity desserts all month.

Raspberries

Raspberries are a member of the rose family along with apples, cherries and blackberries, and are made up of small rounds called drupelets. Due to their delicate nature, it’s vital to store raspberries correctly. Keep in the fridge, arranged in a single layer on a sheet of kitchen paper. For a fruity breakfast, mix lime juice and zest with a drizzle of honey and toss with raspberries, mango and blueberries. Serve with yogurt and granola.

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Also in season...

Peas

These bright, luscious pods are at their best from now until October. Peas can be whizzed to make a soup, braised in butter or blanched as a side (add mint to enhance their flavour). Choose pods that are full but not bulging – less mature peas are softer and sweeter. Cook fresh peas in a small amount of unsalted boiling water for 2-3 minutes or steam for 1-2 minutes.

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Blackberries

Blackberries

These sharp yet sweet fruits are at their best in late summer. They're best stored unwashed, on a layer of kitchen paper in the fridge to prevent them crushing each other. In British folklore, it was believed to be unlucky to pick wild blackberries after Michaelmas, on 29 September. For a fresh and fruity drink, blitz blackberries and quartered lemons (peel and pips removed) in a food processor with a little sugar and a few mint leaves. Strain, then top up with soda water.

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cherries

Cherries

These sweet summer fruits have been grown since Roman times, and became popular in Britain in the
 15th century.
 Don’t have a cherry pitter? You can use a chopstick or an icing nozzle to remove the stone.
 For a delicious lunch, roast cherries with honey, lemon zest and thyme leaves. Spread toast with ricotta and top with prosciutto and the cherries. Drizzle with any roasting juices to serve.

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beetroot

Beetroot

Sweet and earthy in flavour and a beautiful, vibrant purple in colour, beetroot is extremely versatile. Wash your hands as soon as you've finished preparing beetroot, as the purple juice can stain your fingers. For a tangy burger relish, roast whole with garlic, olive oil and a little balsamic. Dice, then add chopped capers, parsley and mint. Mix 1 part cider vinegar with 2 parts olive oil; stir into the beetroot.

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Courgette

Courgette

This versatile green vegetable is tender and easy to cook. The smaller the courgette, the more flavour it has. Choose ones that are shiny and firm to the touch. Courgettes are in season from mid-June to mid-September. Try using a spiraliser or julienne peeler to slice into ribbons. Serve raw, steam or fry in a little olive oil to soften slightly.

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Gooseberries

Gooseberries

These tangy berries are only available for a short time, so grab them fast! Green, early season gooseberries have a tart flavour and are usually used for cooking, while later, red-tinged fruits are sweeter and milder. For a fruity frozen yogurt, simmer 2 parts gooseberries with 1 part sugar to soften. Add elderflower cordial to taste and stir through Greek yogurt. Freeze in a freezer-proof container, whisking with a fork every 30 mins until set.

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Red chillies

Red chillies

Red chillies have a medium heat and delicate flavour. Larger chillies generally have a milder flavour, while smaller ones are more fiery. It’s the membrane of the chilli (which attaches the seeds to the flesh), rather than the seed thsemselves, that holds the heat. Scrape this out if you prefer a milder flavour. Their fruity flavour and heat make chillies a delicious addition to marinades. Try blitzing with garlic, tomato purée, paprika, olive oil and lime juice, then tossing with prawns or cubed tofu. Griddle until charred. 

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Kale

Kale

This intensely flavoured member of the cabbage family has been cultivated for over 2,000 years. It's at its best between September and February. Kale has long been popular in colder regions, thanks to its excellent resistance to frost. Fresh kale should be a vivid green colour with crisp, unwilted leaves. Store it in the fridge. Enjoy it sautéed in stir-fries, or added to soups and stews as a substitute for spinach or cabbage.

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Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes

These versatile sweet, orange spuds have become a storecupboard staple. Sweet potatoes can be treated in the same way as white potatoes and are great for baking, roasting and mashing. For healthier oven chips, cut into wedges and toss with olive oil, paprika and seasoning before roasting. 

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apples

Apples

Apples are one of the UK's favourite fruits and with more than 7,000 varieties we are truly spoilt for choice. Whether you love a Braeburn, Golden Delicious, or a Pink Lady, crisp apples are delicious when baked into pies, topped with crumble, or coated in toffee. Keep apples in the fridge or a cool dark spot in a perforated bag. Keep an eye on them, as it's true that one bad apple can make others turn. Dessert apples are great in salads or on top of tarts as they hold their shape when cooked. Cooking apples lose texture and turn soft, so are best in pies or crumbles.

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Pears

Pears

Sweet and juicy, pears are wonderfully versatile - they're delicious eaten raw, poached or roasted, and can be used in an array of sweet and savoury dishes. Due to the pear tree's long lifespan, the fruit was considered a symbol of immortality in ancient China. Choose firm fruits with unblemished skins; don't be put off by any brown speckling, as this is normal. Leave to ripen at room temperature. For a warming pud, mix roasted pear chunks, chopped dark chocolate and a little cinnamon in a baking dish, then top with a crumble topping and bake until crisp and golden.

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Sweetcorn

Sweetcorn

A barbecue favourite, sweetcorn is at its best in the summer months. Fresh cobs are best eaten on the same day of purchase. Store in the fridge in its packaging. If opened, keep fresh by wrapping in damp kitchen towel. Try barbecuing or grilling, then mix the kernels with lime juice, black beans and chopped tomato, chilli, avocado and coriander for a Mexican-style salsa.

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