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What's in season in May

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.

  1. Asparagus

    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.

    Try the stems in a light spring quiche, bake into buttery chorizo and Manchego tarts or toss with peas for this light spring salad. 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.

  2. Peppers

    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.

  3. Spring greens

    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.

    Spring greens
  4. Spinach

    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. This Turkish-inspired spinach menemen is the perfect centrepiece for a weekend brunch, while a vibrant green minestrone with spinach sauce makes the most of plenty of seasonal spring veg.

  5. Piccolo tomatoes

    Piccolo tomatoes, grown in Britain, have a great balance of tangy tartness and sweetness that add a pop of colour and flavour to any dish. Aside from snacking on by the handful and packing into lunchboxes, try cooking with them to bring out the sweetness. Make your own homemade Piccolo ketchup for a handy sauce that lasts in the fridge for up to six weeks, ready for that first barbecue of the year.

    Piccolo tomatoes
  6. Iceberg lettuce

    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.

    Iceberg lettuce