You’ve got to love April, despite its ridiculously changeable weather patterns. The evenings are getting longer and everything in the food world, it seems, is going green. After the predominantly dull colours of winter foods (with the exception of rhubarb, of course) come sparkling spring salads, deep-toned watercress leaves, spiky and hot early rocket, chard, chives and coriander – you get the picture.
If you do happen to wander down to the woods or a babbling brook, start sniffing, because April is the month for the king of the spring green leaves, wild garlic. In case you’re worried about picking the wrong leaves, the soft garlicky scent in the air wherever it grows is the first clear indication you’ve scored. The leaves are long and slender, resembling Lily of the Valley, but a gentle squeeze will release the garlic aroma – and bingo!
The leaves are at their best before the plant flowers and can be used to liven up sauces and mash, or whizzed into mellow flavoured soups. With a myriad other uses, they are a darling ingredient for adept and creative chefs.
There is no way to say ‘food’ and ‘April’ in the same breath without a mention of asparagus. British asparagus is one of the highlights of the culinary year and, if you are in the south, you should be able to get your hands on young spears soon.
So the northerners don’t feel left out, the official start of the season is usually late April. But grab it while you can, as the season ends 12 weeks later.
Asparagus is up there as one of the most versatile ingredients in the kitchen. Steamed, boiled, griddled, roast, barbecued, thrown in a salad, baked in a tart or an unusual breakfast muffin: the list is so long, it gets boring…
Away from the greens, cast an eye round and you will also find crab and John Dory are particularly good right now. And on the meat front, spring lamb, if the budget will allow.