UK grown spring foods are just coming into season, get them whilst they are at their freshest and most nourishing.
For many people cooking during lockdown has been a monotonous chore, whilst others have embraced the challenge and extended their culinary skills. Whichever camp you fall into, the influx of fresh, locally grown foods into our grocery stores and markets is a welcome way to shake up your menu options.
Asparagus quality deteriorates very quickly after picking so imported spears are nowhere near as tasty as British grown crops with their reduced food miles. The good news about asparagus, especially for reluctant cooks, is the less you do with it the better. Lightly steam the spears, then drizzle with olive oil or melted butter and season with a little bit of salt and pepper to make an easy yet delicious side dish or starter. Alternatively, try dipping them in a runny egg as a more sophisticated version of the childhood favourite, eggs with toast soldiers.
Beetroot can be messy to prepare but once cooked can be kept in the fridge to add to salads, so it is worth preparing a larger batch to keep for a few days. Beetroot is full of nitrates which have some impressive benefits for athletic performance. Regular beetroot juice has been shown to have a remarkable effect on athletes and cyclists, it enhances blood flow, increases muscle efficiency and extends endurance. It is alleged that drinking beetroot juice can make you faster in a cycling time trial, it may only be by seconds but that is enough to win a medal instead of being a runner-up. Pretty impressive for a root vegetable.
A bag of rocket leaves in the supermarket can set you back a couple of pounds, but this fast-growing salad leaf is an easy one to grow at home, however little space you have. Now is a good time to find fresh loose rocket in the shops and often garden centres will sell small plants to pot up at home. With rocket you can ‘cut and come again’ meaning that if you thin out the leaves, they will re-grow, giving you a supply of leaves over several weeks. Adding a few rocket leaves to your plate gives a meal a clean, bitter crunch and as well as being a good source of folic acid and iron.
Strawberries are rich in vitamin C and antioxidants but the main reason for seeking out a British grown fruit is for their flavour. The large white fleshed strawberries we can now get all year round are a pale imitation of a lush, spring strawberry, picked at the exact moment of ripeness. Strawberries are an easy plant to grow at home, they even work well in hanging baskets, so you do not need a lot of space for them and nothing beats freshly picked, sun-warmed strawberries for taste.
Watercress is one of the true ‘super-foods’ containing 50 vital vitamins and minerals and, gram for gram contains more calcium than milk, more folate than bananas, more Vitamin C than oranges and more Vitamin E than broccoli. Its strong, mustardy taste goes well in salads, makes fantastic soups, and it can be made into dips or even stir-fried. Watercress still grows wild in rivers and moist areas but most of the watercress eaten in the UK is commercially grown.