July is a wonderful month for eating seasonal. True, we have pretty much waved goodbye to British asparagus, but there are exciting vegetables and fruit to come. Broad beans and cucumbers, new carrots and beetroot, spinach and green beans. Strawberries are going strong – after all, Wimbledon is only just started. And tomatoes! Mine are hopefully going to start ripening any day now and this year it might be a tomato victory (fingers crossed).
I buy most of my fruit and vegetables (ones I don't grow) from the weekly local market or farm shops because it’s supposed to be much cheaper, fresher and more local. But therein lies the issue: unlike supermarkets, local markets don’t display the provenience of their produce. And though it would be easy to assume it’s all British, it ain’t necessarily so. I wish they were like the French markets where every box on the stall is labelled, not with the country of origin because the whole lot is French, but with the producer region. I want new season carrots but not grown in Italy or Spain, if the ones grown in Norfolk or Lancashire are better, fresher and local.
So I pester the traders with questions, and sometimes they don’t know. They don’t know where the stuff they’re flogging comes from! Astonishing and unacceptable. We should all ask, every time, so they learn to pay attention to the origin, not just the lowest wholesale market price.
Now finally, what to do with all the great local produce?
I’ve been gorging on broad beans because now is when they are the nicest, before growing enormous and too starchy. Smashed broad beans and peas on a bruschetta are divine. Or crushed, seasoned with garlic and olive oil and served as a side dish. You can also make Persian rice with broad beans which is simply delightful.
Cucumbers are not only good for soggy sandwiches and Greek salads. Last year I was swamped with cucumbers growing on my patio so had to invent new ways of serving them: with feta and honey, with tahini dressing, in Persian dips as well as stir fried. The last is a novel recipe I totally recommend.
New beetroots are lovely in salads, with herbs and grated cheese or as a mix of raw and cooked ones. And spinach – mine grows back almost as quick as I pick it – has so many uses, as sides or fillings, that you’d better just go to my recipe finder and generate some recipes yourself. Happy picking!