Season's best

March has a vibrant, gorgeous harvest that's really worth celebrating – from crisp chicory and versatile flat-leaf parsley, to fiery green chillies and oniony leeks. Kicking off with tangy, tropical passion fruit, here's the downlow on the season's freshest ingredients.

The dusky exterior of this tropical fruit hides crunchy seeds surrounded by an aromatic, juicy and slightly tart pulp. Passion fruit’s hard, deep purple shell wrinkles as it ripens and becomes sweeter. Avoid any that are already very wrinkled or that feel light. Although the pulp is juicy, it takes more than 100 fruits to make 1ltr of juice. Try blitzing up the passion fruit pulp with other exotic fruits for a fresh and tasty smoothie. If decorating a cake, try adding a little strained passion fruit juice to buttercream, then use the seeds to decorate the top.

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Also in season...

Banana

Banana

Rich in potassium, riboflavin and fibre, bananas have a distinct aroma and a thick yellow skin. They are great if you need a boost of energy and make the perfect, portable healthy snack. Try them blitzed into a smoothie, baked into a tarte tatin, or blended into pancake batter. 

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Green chillies

Green chillies

These little green chilli peppers are picked when young and have thick, glossy skin. They tend to be medium-hot and are a popular ingredient in South American and Asian cuisines. Chilling can affect the flavour, so allow them to come to room temperature before use. 

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Avocado

Avocado

Not only does this green favourite taste great, it's good for you, too. Avocados have a soft buttery texture and a mild creamy flavour. You can tell if an avocado is ripe if it feels slightly soft when gently squeezed. Don't press too hard, though, or the flesh will spoil. Add to salads, serve smashed on toast with chilli flakes and a drizzle of lemon juice or enjoy with poached eggs and smoked salmon for breakfast.

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Chicory

Chicory

Also known as endive, chicory has crisp, tightly packed leaves and a delicate, slightly bitter flavour. A forced crop, grown in darkness, chicory has white leaves with pale yellow or red tips. Its distinctive boat-shaped leaves make it perfect for stuffing, or for using as a crudité. Add it to salads for a bitter crunch, or try grilling, then layering the leaves with garlic, cream, Parmesan, thyme and walnuts. Bake for a warming gratin.

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Leeks

A member of the allium family alongside onions and garlic, leeks have a more subtle flavour and slight sweetness when cooked. To prepare, trim away the green top and root, and remove the outer layer. Cut in half lengthways, and rinse thoroughly to remove any soil. Leeks pair well with delicate ingredients: try using them in place of onion as the base for a risotto.

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