Pick of the crop: the importance of seasonal produce and how to make the most of it

Understanding which foods are at their best during each season is crucial. Buying the freshest possible produce will create the tastiest food.

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Cooking with seasonal produce can both brighten flavour and colour of a dish

In a Guardian survey of 2,000 people, only five per cent could say when blackberries were in season and only four per cent knew when plums were at their best.

Only one in ten could say which season was the best for gooseberries. These results were despite 78 per cent of them claiming to shop seasonally.

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78% of people claim to shop seasonally

Nutrition expert and health coach Joy Randolph stresses the importance of seasonal produce when cooking for customers.

She says: “It’s healthier, as ripe foods have higher nutritional value. For example, oranges, citrus fruits and vegetables that contain vitamin C typically see a reduction in these vitamin levels when the food is stored over time.”
She continues: “Recipes that use seasonal produce often taste fresher and more flavourful, having been harvested and picked at the optimal time for eating.”
Here’s our guide to seasonal cooking…

January

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Brighten up January with a splash of colour

Brighten up a dull January by injecting bright foods such as blood orange, forced rhubarb, Seville orange and clementines, all of which you will find in season this month.

Joy also recommends cabbage, horseradish, Jerusalem artichoke, parsnip and swede.

February

Celebrate the month of love by using ingredients like cauliflower, leek, truffle, kale and purple sprouting broccoli.

Joy suggests using these wonderful greens in salads, or as sides to main dishes.

March

March is a great month for seafood, with clams, mussels, cockles, oysters, sardines and winkles all in season.

Our expert Joy says this is the perfect opportunity to create lovely seafood dishes. Think paella and pies!

April

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Using produce while in season is great for added flavour

Keep your customers out of the April showers by using seasonal ingredients like rocket, or for more filling dishes use sardines or crab. Joy recommends wild garlic and morel.

May

Prepare for the warmer months with fresh recipes that include gooseberry, nectarine or chicory.

Also in season this month are new potatoes, asparagus and watercress. Create vegetable risottos, jams and fritters.

Joy recommends taking advantage of elderflower to create refreshing and tasty beverages.

June

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Raspberries and blueberries give a touch of colour to your fruit salad throughout June

Summer is here and it is time to celebrate with seasonal favourites like strawberries and raspberries.

Beans are also popular this month, with broad beans and French beans both in season. Joy also mentions that mangetout, peas and tomatoes will be ready to be plucked and cooked in June.

July

July is the perfect month for fresh and tasty foods like blackcurrants, loganberries, apricots, aubergines, peaches and cherries.

Joy says that with all of these fantastic fruits available, July is a great time to perfect your fruit salad.

Beetroot, courgette, cucumber and radish also pack a punch this month.

 August

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Raspberries perfect for the summer season

With the weather still warm, keep your dishes light.

Seasonal fruits blackberries, apples, blueberries and redcurrants can be used to make delicious sandwiches can be made with mackerel and cucumber.

Joy also recommends beetroot, marrow, pepper and sweetcorn for August.

September

Ensure you make the most of September’s produce by stocking up on bilberries, marrows, greengages, butternut squash and figs.

Stuffed marrow will be a great addition to your menu this month and can be created in many different ways, using many different ingredients.

Joy reminds restaurant owners to make the most of butternut squash.

October

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Get into the Halloween spirit with Pumpkins through out October

Get your customers into the Halloween spirit with pumpkin dishes.

How about a Caribbean curry? Or go for something lighter like a pumpkin and chilli soup. “Also in season in October are chicory, cobnuts, damsons, celeriac, kale and sloes,” says Joy.

November

As the weather gets colder, use ingredients like Brussels sprouts and swede in hot dishes, or create warming pies with wild mushrooms and chestnuts.

Joy suggests using fruits like quince and medlars to create tarts and puddings.

December

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Cabbage to go perfectly with a Sunday roast

Fill your menu with comfort food in December. Brussels sprouts, cabbage and swede are all in season now.

Why not make your own cranberry sauce – the perfect accompaniment to your Christmas Turkey.

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Joy Randolf, nutrition expert and health coach

 

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