May 09, 2021
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to shopping and planning mealtimes, but the change in seasons is a natural trigger to switch-up our choices and add new flavours and freshness to our plates.
Taking advantage of seasonal ingredients is also a more affordable way to shop, as in-season produce is grown more economically (no expensively heated greenhouses), tends to be grown more locally and have travelled fewer food miles (rather than being shipped from hotter climates), and can simply rev up the appetite at mealtimes with the anticipation of a favourite ingredient or seasonal staple.
Try these simple food swaps to bring springtime freshness to your plate.
If you love… broccoli
Try… purple sprouting broccoli
Heads of green broccoli tend to be available all year, although it’s truly in season from June to September. Now is the time to try its leggy and colourful cousin, purple sprouting broccoli. Research shows it may improve resistance to heart disease and diabetes, contains cancer-fighting phytochemicals, and is a good source of vitamins A and C, calcium and fibre.
Cook it… roasted in the oven then drizzled with olive oil, steamed as a side to fish or to chop into a salad, or stir-fried with other vegetables and prawns for a quick supper.
If you love… baked potatoes
Try… Jersey Royals
May is peak season for these tiny, tasty potatoes, which have a special flavour owing to the unique growing conditions on the island of Jersey. A good source of complex carbohydrates, these new potatoes also provide immunity-boosting vitamin C and energy-giving vitamin B, plus plenty of fibre.
Cook them… steamed or lightly boiled as a side dish, or served in a mustardy potato salad.
If you love… leeks
In season for just three months, asparagus starts to appear in shops in May before hitting its stride in June and July. Look for slim stems (wider stalks can be tough and woody) that snap, not bend, to indicate freshness. Asparagus contains more folic acid than any other vegetable – a crucial nutrient that benefits our red blood cells. It also contains cancer-fighting phytochemicals, vitamins A and C, potassium and fibre.
Cook it… I love to roast asparagus, then serve it with some feta cheese and toasted walnuts and a drizzle of olive oil. Or shave raw asparagus into salads.
If you love… apples
I'm a huge fan of pectin-rich stewed apples for their ability to soothe and settle the stomach. But in the first few months of the year, I’ll make the switch to rhubarb for its tangy flavour, beautifully complemented with Greek yoghurt for a satisfying breakfast. Fibre-rich rhubarb has been linked with lower cholesterol levels, and it’s also a source of vitamin C.
Cook it… poach rhubarb in water or a little fruit juice, or put it in a dish with a little sugar, cover with foil and roast in the oven for 15 minutes until tender.
If you love… rocket
Try… spinach and watercress
These intense leafy greens are in season now and will bring a welcome flavour hit to salads and sides. Spinach is at its most tender in May, and provides disease-fighting antioxidants, folic acid and vitamins A and C. Watercress adds a peppery punch to salads, although its flavour is softened when cooked. It’s a good source of cancer-fighting phytochemicals and can support liver function, which is important if you’re having treatment such as chemotherapy.
Cook them… in a fresh watercress and spinach soup, wilted into curries and stir-fries, raw in salads and whizzed into smoothies and juices.
For more info and inspiration, read What to eat now: spring