May is a bountiful month for fresh seasonal fruit and veg. Make the most of the short asparagus season by steaming, griddling or roasting the tender stems. Add fresh colour to your meals with red peppers and sweet Piccolo tomatoes, while leafy spinach and spring greens are perfect for using in soups or vegetarian pies. Iceberg lettuce is a staple of salads, but this month try grilling it for smoky, charred flavours.
The British asparagus season officially runs from the 23rd April to the 21st June – so make the most of it while you can! 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.
Expertly picked for their quality and freshness, aparagus is a versatile veggie. Try the stems in a light spring quiche, wrap in Filo pastry and serve with whipped feta cheese for a different take on finger food, or get them on the grill in these asparagus and chorizo skewers for your next barbecue starter. If the weather isn't as expected for spring, we've even got a summer pea minestrone which makes the most of this delicate but delicious vegetable.
Bright, sweet and versatile, bell peppers are a firm favourite in lots of Mediterranean dishes. Yellow and orange peppers are generally the sweetest, while green ones have a more bitter flavour. Chargrill peppers to give them a delicious smoky flavour that packs a punch in this chargrilled chicken and pepper sandwich. For an easy midweek meal, try a colourful veggie spaghetti peperonata or veg-filled lighter toad-in-the-hole.
The very first cabbages of the year, spring greens, like kale, have loose leaves without the hard centre of more mature cabbages. Fresh greens have large, dark leaves and a mild, slightly bitter taste. They are picked before they reach full maturity, to stop the leaves turning thick and tough. Pile them into pastry with potatoes, tomatoes and olives for this spring greens pot pie recipe that makes a great vegetarian alternative to a Sunday roast.
Leafy spinach is a handy veg to keep in the cupboard for adding to soups, stews or simply raw in salads. Baby spinach has a milder flavour, but in all varieties you should look for bright green leaves and crisp stems. Spinach cooks quickly and shrinks dramatically, so you often need more than you might think.
If you're cooking it into a dish, try out this creamy spinach chicken dish for a simple midweek dinner, or you can have a vibrant, hearty salad for your next alfresco dining and make this spiced lentil and spinach salad.
Plump, juicy and versatile jewels, British tomatoes come into season at the start of May and signal the start of summer. Expertly picked for their quality and freshness, they add a real pop of colour to your dishes. Add cherry tomatoes to this prawn linguine for some added freshness or top some crusty bread in this simple Bruschetta for a light lunch. Remember, one medium tomato or seven cherry ones count as 1 of your 5-a-day.
Crisp, cool and sweet, iceberg lettuce is a classic addition to salads. Although usually eaten raw, this variety is also delicious cooked: this iceberg and prawn salad recipe griddles the lettuce for added smoky flavour. Or use raw lettuce to add crisp fresh flavour to rich meat dishes – layer up in burgers, slow cooked pork tacos or chicken tostadas.
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