Asparagus This year, no sooner has asparagus hit the shops than, sadly, it’s time to say goodbye. Thanks to the atrocious weather, the season was very late in starting but must still end late-June. Should the growers continue to cut after this time, next year’s crop will be compromised. What a shame.
I suggest you buy as much as you can and think about preserving it. Fresh asparagus does not freeze too well, and the tips should be eaten now to enjoy them at their best. (They can be frozen for up to a month but are then only good to use in sauces and soups.)
The stalks, though, are great for freezing. Just trim the woody end and steam or lightly boil until tender. Purée with a hand blender or food processor and freeze in small batches.
This frozen purée is a godsend later in the year, as it makes a great base for asparagus soup, with the addition of a good vegetable stock. Or warm the purée, and add sea salt and a dash of olive oil for a great side dish to meat or fish.
Alternatively, stir the purée into warm mashed potatoes, add a dollop to a casserole or pie mix, and spring is instantly back on the plate
Strawberries On the weather front, the rain has been good news for strawberry growers. Again, they are late in cropping but this means, now that they are putting in an appearance, they’re expected to be much sweeter. See my recipe for Strawberry Oven-Baked Risotto with Buttermilk.
New-season, fresh mackerel also arrives in June, but you may want to look closely at its source. This cheap and healthy fish was put on the Marine Conservation Council’s danger list in January, due to over-fishing in the North Atlantic, so we were discouraged from eating too much.
However, last month, the MCC did a massive U-turn. Now, it seems, it’s OK for us to eat mackerel, so long as it’s from an ethical source. Line-caught Cornish is good; or alternatively British, European or Norwegian “pelagic-caught” (that is, caught in shoals). But we’re to avoid any that comes from Iceland or the Faroes.
Fortuitously, the perfect accompaniment to pan-fried mackerel is the gooseberry, which puts in its first appearance of the year this month. June gooseberries are more tart than their late-summer cousins, so they make a wonderful partner to the oily fish.
We also say hello to broad beans. The grey, tough old bean of school days is having a revival thanks to chefs double-podding it (popping the bean out of its leathery skin) to reveal a tiny, tender emerald within.
On the other hand, if free food excites you, then nettles are still plentiful (though, after June, they become harsh and gritty, so you need to blanche the leaves in boiling water to remove the sting before cooking them up in soups and purées).
Wild garlic leaves are coming to an end – but since the flowers are also edible, there is still a little time left to enjoy them. And early June brings a flurry of sweet, scented elderflowers across the land, accompanied by an equal flurry of elderflower cordial-making.
Finally, for the carnivores, spring lamb is still abundant – and look out too for salt marsh lamb, which pops up later this month.