Season's best

April brings gradually warmer weather, lighter evenings and plenty of new seasonal produce. Make the most of fruit and veg with short seasons – use Jersey Royals in creamy potato salads, steam or griddle British asparagus and use Supersweet blueberries in vibrant desserts and cocktails. Cauliflower is still in season this month - try roasting the florets for maximum flavour. Colourful stems of bright pink rhubarb brighten up sweet and savoury dishes - try using it to add tartness to salads or pair with custard in desserts for a classic combination that always works.

Supersweet blueberries

Available until early June, these blueberries are grown in southern Spain, Morocco and Portugal, and are twice the size of regular blueberries. Look for deeply coloured, firm fruit with a light, dusty coating. Rinse in a colander with cold water if needed, but only lightly as they’ll turn mushy. Keep for up to five days in the fridge. They also freeze well; once defrosted, dust with a little flour before using to stop the colour bleeding. Try them in a blueberry mojito: crush blueberries, mint, lime and sugar in a jug. Stir in white rum and crushed ice; top up with soda water.

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Also in season...

Cauliflower

Cauliflower

Like its cousin broccoli, cauliflower is made up of a close network of small, edible flower heads (known as 'curds'), which grow from a thick central stalk. White cauliflower is the most common variety – the creamy round heads should be even in colour and surrounded by tight green leaves. Once the leaves have been cut away, cauliflower can be used whole or broken into florets. To do this, cut into quarters, then slice off the stem. The florets should then separate naturally. Roasting the florets will give a sweeter taste. The leaves can be roasted too – they’re great dressed with olive oil, chopped garlic and chilli, and scattered with grated lemon zest and Parmesan.

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Cucumber

Cucumber

A popular addition to salads and sandwiches, cucumber is one of the world's oldest cultivated crops. Although cucumbers are used as a vegetable, they are botanically classed as a fruit – like tomatoes. Despite being 96 per cent water, cucumbers are firm and crisp. Try cutting them into chunks, then freezing. Blitz with elderflower cordial, gin and ice cubes for a refreshing twist on a granita.

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Asparagus

St George’s Day on 23 April is the first day of the British asparagus season, which runs until the summer solstice on 21 June – so it’s not around for long! The name ‘asparagus’ comes from the Persian word for sprout, as the spears force themselves upwards out of the soil at such a fast rate: there are reports of them growing more than 10cm in 24 hours! Stalks should be crisp and firm, with tight, closed buds at the tip. Prepare by bending to find the natural break, then snapping off the woody ends – you can use these to make stock. Steam or roast spears, or try tossing them with olive oil and griddling with orange halves. Serve with the caramelised citrus squeezed over the top.

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Forced rhubarb

Most British forced rhubarb is grown in the famous ‘Rhubarb Triangle’, an area in West Yorkshire between Wakefield, Morley and Rothwell. Forced rhubarb is grown in the dark during winter, which ‘forces’ it to grow quickly in search of light. It’s vibrant pink in colour and has a more delicate flavour than the field-grown variety. Rhubarb was originally grown in Siberia, and used as a medicine by the Chinese over 4,000 years ago. During World War II the price of rhubarb was controlled to ensure that most people could still afford it. Although a vegetable, rhubarb is usually treated like a fruit, and sweetened to balance its naturally tart flavour. Stewed with orange juice, ginger and sugar, it’s delicious folded through a mix of yogurt and whipped cream for a rhubarb fool.

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