Summer sees the arrival of fruits and vegetables dense in both flavour and nutrients. Fruit and vegetable-heavy meals are refreshingly easy to put together, particularly with the help of the summer sun. Here are the best ingredients to get creative with this season.
Summer is perhaps the most plentiful season for sourcing an abundance of fresh, locally-sourced produce. As the days get warmer and the evenings longer, eating not only becomes more sociable but also more flavourful. Weekends are filled with BBQ invitations and alfresco dining opportunities; packed lunches and picnics are eaten in shade-dappled spots in local parks. The hotter weather brings with it the desire for cooling salads and fresher tastes, coinciding perfectly with the seasonal increase in vibrant green leaves and crunchy raw vegetables.
Eating seasonally is beneficial for both the health of the planet and your wellbeing. In opting for locally grown and seasonal produce, the energy and airmiles required to ensure foods such as strawberries and blueberries are available year-round are dramatically reduced – resulting in a direct decrease in CO2 emissions. For our own health, seasonal eating ensures that fruits and vegetables are as nutritionally dense as possible. Throughout winter months, the levels of antioxidants and crucial vitamins in foods are often depleted due to the longer transport times, meaning much of their nutritional value is too.
One of the most satisfying and fun ways to eat seasonally is to head to a local pick your own farm. Warm strawberries picked (and eaten) directly from the plant are perhaps the best way to consume the fruit, with gooseberries and raspberries often available too. Whilst this offers an opportunity to encourage young children, and adults alike, to connect with the food that otherwise automatically appears on supermarket shelves, it also supports local, independent businesses. To take this a step further, you could invest in your own edible garden, be it a small dedicated plot in your back garden or with a smaller scale windowsill planter.
While exotic fruits such as pineapples and mangoes are most commonly associated with summer produce, locally-grown seasonal fruits offer delicious flavours without the attached airmiles and emissions. Here are the most flavoursome fruits and vegetables the UK has to offer:
FRUITS: apricots, blackcurrants, blueberries, cherries, greengages, gooseberries, loganberries, nectarines, peaches, plums, raspberries, redcurrants, strawberries
VEGETABLES: aubergine, broad beans, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, chard, courgettes, corn, cucumber, fennel, fresh peas, garlic, green beans, lettuce and salad leaves, new potatoes, peppers, radishes, rocket, runner beans, tomatoes, watercress
Much of this produce easily lends itself to popular summer dining. Berries make the perfect accompaniment to classic summer desserts, Eton messes and summer puddings. Fresh leaves and foods best served raw are crucial for summer salads and barbecue accompaniments, such as a broad bean salad our charred lettuce. Taking the time to ensure your summer meals are filled and focused on the produce the UK has to offer has benefits for both the planet and your wellbeing.