What’s in Season: May

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This month’s seasonal favourites welcome Spring with open arms – Magnolias are in full bloom and lockdown restrictions are easing across the UK. Spring produce is also at its best right now – we start to see more come to the forefront as the temperatures increase and the puffer coats get packed away for the season. 

Take a look at our favourite May finds:

  • Radishes
  • Crab
  • Artichokes
  • Three-cornered leeks

Radishes

Radishes are a member of the mustard family and have a peppery flavour and a crisp, crunchy texture. They are a vegetable that is sometimes hard for people to get excited about but the truth is they are the perfect veg for snacking or adding a little crunch to a salad. Radishes are extremely versatile and can be eaten straight after harvesting. May is the time where radishes are in full season – we love a simple radish crudité with broad bean and goats cheese dip. It’s the perfect accompaniment to a springtime picnic or a party snack and what’s more, is you can eat the leafy part of the radish too.

Recipe:
Radishes with broad bean and goats curd dip

How to grow guide:
Radishes are a hardy, very easy-to-grow root vegetable that can be planted multiple times in a growing season. Radish seeds can be planted in both the spring and the Autumn, but growing should be suspended in the height of summer when temperatures are typically too hot. Plant in a sunny spot. If radishes are planted in too much shade—or even where neighbouring vegetable plants shade them—they will put all their energy into producing larger leaves which will result in smaller bulbs. When planting, place your seeds 3cm deep into soil rich in organic matter and water regularly. Keep soil evenly moist but not waterlogged. A drip irrigation system is a great way to achieve this. Radishes should be ready to harvest three weeks from planting. 

Brown Crab

Brown crabs from the UK are in abundant availability from April through to November. The brown meat of crab gives a savoury flavour with a slightly acidic tang while the white meat has a stronger, sweeter flavour, with crumbly, fragile meat that falls apart easily.

Brown crab stocks are relatively healthy in UK waters and the majority of brown crab is caught with crab pots, a selective and low impact fishing method. Brown crabs are extremely commercially important and the brown crab fishery in British waters is one of the largest crab fisheries in the world. We love nothing more than a good sandwich for lunch and have whipped up a delicious crab sandwich for this warmer weather.

Recipe:
Worlds best crab sandwich

Artichokes

Artichokes are in season from late May to September but are a slow food to linger over. This robust vegetable requires an immense amount of patience when both preparing and eating but once at the heart of the artichoke, the reward is well worth the effort. You can serve artichoke as a dish on its own, with a bowl of vinaigrette or lemon butter for dipping.

When preparing Artichokes, remove and discard the toughest of the outer leaves. Snap the stalk off at the base and remove the tough fibres running into the base. Gently open the leaves to gain access to the core of the flower and pull out the central cone of thinner leaves to reveal the flowery choke. Carefully scrape this out with a teaspoon, leaving the artichoke heart in place. 

Place trimmed artichokes stem end down in a colander placed in a large pot of boiling water to which the juice of half a lemon has been added. Steam the artichoke for between 20 and 45 minutes depending on size. Artichokes are cooked when you can easily pull out an inner leaf and the stem is tender. Allow to cool and serve up with lemon butter. 

Recipe:
Deep-fried artichoke 

How to grow guide:
When growing artichokes, sow your seeds in March and April in pots of moist seed sowing compost at a temperature of 15-20°C. Transplant the seedlings when they are large enough (roughly 10cm tall). Globe artichokes prefer an open position in full sun, shaded areas will result in a smaller crop so be careful where you decide to plant your seedlings. Artichokes need reasonably fertile, well-drained soil for planting, although they are reasonably drought resistant, you may need to water during prolonged periods of dry weather, especially when the flower buds are forming. Keep plants weed-free and mulch with well-rotted manure or compost in spring. In cold areas, you may need to cover plants with a mulch of straw, compost or similar in late autumn to protect them from cold winter weather. Divide plants every 3 to 4 years to keep the plants young, vigorous and cropping well.

Three-cornered Leeks

The foraging season continues all year round but from January to early spring, the leaves of the three-cornered leek are tender and full-flavoured – perfect for foraging. Three-cornered leeks taste similar to brown onions but more subtle in flavour with a hint of chive and spring onion. When they are cooked the flavour becomes more mild and sweet and makes the perfect flavourful addition to many dishes. 

Three-cornered leek is a Mediterranean plant introduced in the 19th Century and has naturalised widely in hedgerows, parks, field margins, verges and waste ground in many parts of South England. We like to use the leaves to replace chives, spring onions or leeks –blended with butter on new potatoes or in pestos and risotto. While young and tender, the chopped leaves are great raw in salads or homemade coleslaw and the flowers make an attractive and edible garnish for savoury dishes and salads. 

Recipe:
Three-cornered leek gnocchi

How to grow guide:
While invasive plants invoke heated feelings when it comes to planting, three-cornered leeks can be found in many parts of the UK and are fairly easy to grow in a pot at home. Three-cornered leeks should be planted between September and the end of November or between March and the end of April when the winter reserves are formed and the temperatures are not too low. Bury the roots a few centimetres so that the foliage is flush and water copiously just after planting. Make sure that your pot has good drainage and is watered regularly.

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