Visiting a local farmers’ market is the best possible way to explore just which fruits and vegetables are in season at any one time as the produce that is available there is that which is grown and harvested only in your local area. Naturally what is available at different seasons will vary on just where you live; this article will deal with the best vegetables that are available in the spring from farmers’ markets in the UK.
Visiting a local farmers’ market in the spring will mean that the customer is able to get seasonal fruit and vegetables and not have to rely on those on supermarkets shelves, of which around 70% have been imported from all over the world. These store bought and much travelled products not only taste less vital and fresh than local produce but the transport of them creates more pollution and uses up valuable fossil fuels, also the amount of packaging is wasteful and often un-recyclable. It is estimated that in the UK at the moment there are about 450 farmers’ markets; this doesn’t count the numerous farm shops and road stalls that offer locally grown produce to the consumer. Consequently with the beautiful and welcome season of spring upon us, a trip to the countryside does not only mean that we see fields and waysides full of colourful spring flowers and lambs frolicking in the fields, but that the local farmers’ markets and farm shops are full of flavourful and healthy fresh local produce.
Kale is one of the earliest vegetables available from farmers’ markets in the spring; it is also a much underrated vegetable that was often used only for feeding livestock. But young small leaved kale with a beautiful fresh green colour and moist, crisp leaves make a delicious side vegetable, it is also very cheap and is perfect in soups, for if there is still a nip in the spring air.
Early spring brings the consumer the chance to purchase beautiful, freshly picked purple sprouting broccoli; it is one of the first spring vegetables grown and available locally and can be bought fresh from the ground from March to April. This vegetable is especially delicious when young and tender with its crisp long stalks – it is a welcome addition to the British plate after a long winter.
From April there will also be some wonderful young new season leeks available at farmers’ markets. The leek, while part of the onion and garlic family, has a far more subtle, sophisticated and sweet flavour and is perfect in soups. The young leeks available in the spring are beautiful if cooked wrapped in boiled ham and covered with a cheese sauce. Also around this time the first of the season’s wonderful young spinach arrives in the markets. Young and fresh with dark green, thin-stemmed leaves, spinach is very nutritional with its high iron and calcium content and Vitamins A and C, it is also totally delicious and very versatile. Although this vegetable is available all year-round, the best time to buy it is in the spring when it is at its freshest and most tender.
April will see the start of the new crop of young, sweet and delicious spring onions – wonderful with a salad or chopped for adding to soups and other dishes, in the spring these onions are so fresh and sweet they are good to eat just as they are.
Probably the most exciting spring crop, and one with a very short lifespan, is the wonderful British asparagus. Asparagus season begins officially on the 1st May – and lasts for a very short six weeks; although there is asparagus of sorts available all year in the supermarkets, none can compare to the taste of the fresh, green asparagus spears picked from the British soil and as fresh as it can be. April also sees the start of the radish season at the markets. These British red radishes are crunchy, juicy and crisp with a wonderful peppery taste; they are too good simply to be an addition to a salad and are delicious served fresh, raw and crisp with some melted butter and lots of salt as a wonderful starter to a meal to accompany an aperitif.
Another exciting crop in the spring markets is the wonderful vegetable that is absolutely bursting with healthy nutrients – beautiful, young, fresh watercress. This is wonderful eaten either raw or cooked and adds a smooth yet peppery tang to any dishes and it is SO good for you. The early spring watercress is delicious in salads or on sandwiches but just as good in soups and sauces.
Also from May another fantastic British vegetable will begin to hit the farmers’ markets; this is the wonderful British new potato. Until you have tasted tiny, freshly picked, young new potatoes, the soil still covering them, you cannot realise just what a delicious taste they have. The new potatoes do stay on the markets from May to August, depending on when the farmers have planted the seeds.
With all these wonderful spring vegetables available there are numerous reasons to visit farmers’ markets and to buy more local, fresh and seasonal food; you will be helping reduce CO2 emissions, paying less for better food, supporting the local community, enjoying some time in the spring countryside but best of all the spring foods that you will be buying will be fresher, tastier and far more nutritious.