Find out what’s good to eat this month as we round up the fruits and vegetables in season in May!
The month of May offers a hint that Spring is finally here for real, and that Summer is just around the corner. Of course, we might still get caught out by a colder day, sending us to dig out the jumpers that we so optimistically packed away until Autumn.
But the fruit and vegetables in season in May give a real taste of what’s in store. Instead of pies and casseroles or puddings with custard, we start to crave the fresher, lighter food of summer. And the barbecues and picnics, of course!
Just a reminder: I don’t believe that you should have to adhere strictly to eating seasonally. The winter could get very dreary if we couldn’t turn to imported fruit and veg to liven things up. But I do believe that having an eye on seasonality helps to make food more interesting and also allows you to take advantage of any gluts or bargain prices that might be available.
So here are a few of the vegetables and fruit in season in May, to whet your appetite and give you some ideas for your menu this month. Keep an eye out for these at your local markets, greengrocers and farms shops:
Asparagus is one of my favourite vegetables and I’m always excited when I see the sign go up at our local farm shop. The asparagus season lasts for about 8 weeks, from St George’s Day (23rd April) to the Summer Solstice (21st June). So if you love asparagus as much as I do, now is the time to indulge.
Proper local asparagus is a world apart from the spindly stalks that are flown in from overseas. The flavour is amazing and really doesn’t need much embellishment. Just steam the spears and pour over some melted butter, dip them in a soft boiled egg or go for full indulgence with a hollandaise sauce.
And yes, eating asparagus could make your wee smell funny for a while, and no, there’s nothing you can do about it if it does. But it’s worth it!
It’s debatable whether peas are truly in season in May. But there’s such an abundance of vegetables in season in June, so I thought that I’d sneak them in here.
Peas are at their sweetest when they’re straight out of the pod, which is why the commercial farmers race to freeze theirs as quickly as possible. So it’s not really worth buying fresh peas unless you’re sure that they have been picked that day.
But if you can lay your hands on some locally or even better grow some in your garden, then the taste of a freshly podded pea is quite delicious. They’re perfect for adding to salads, stirring into risottos or turning into a bright green pesto to mix with pasta.
New potatoes are available all year around in supermarkets these days, so they don’t feel like such a seasonal food. But there was a time when they’d appear for just a few months each summer and would feel like a real treat. I feel old now, reading those lines back…
Anyway, new potatoes are ideal for cooking on the barbecue or turning into a potato salad, so this is certainly the month when they will start to feature on more and more dinner plates. As well as boiling and grilling, they’re also fantastic roasted with a little olive oil and garlic.
And if you see any Jersey Royals in the shops, then it’s definitely worth buying some. Their fantastic flavour means that they don’t need any elaborate treatment, simply boil them until tender and toss with some butter. They’re in season until July, so do try them if you get chance.
I have fond memories of eating a raw stick of rhubarb dipped in sugar when I was a child. The jaw-clenching sweet/sour flavour is still firmly fixed in my mind, although strangely enough my own sons were never keen on trying it…
If you prefer your rhubarb cooked (and I can’t say I blame you), May marks the start of the season for non-forced rhubarb. So it’s time for rhubarb and custard, rhubarb crumble and rhubarb chutney galore. Stewed rhubarb freezes well, so if you have room in your freezer, you could put some away for later in the year.
Frothy white heads of elderflowers start to make their appearance this month, although they will be even more abundant in June.
If you see any near you, you could have a go at making elderflower champagne or elderflower cordial. It’s best to pick elderflowers in the late morning on a dry sunny day, and have a quick sniff of the flowers before you pick them. If they smell of wee, they’re past their best!
Apparently they freeze well and you can use them straight from the freezer. So I may try freezing some this year so that I can make more cordial later on in the summer.
Just remember a few basic foraging guidelines: be sure to identify what you’re picking correctly, don’t pick below waist height (to avoid dog and fox wee!) and leave some for the wildlife and other foragers.
Other vegetables in season in May include:
- Lettuce – yes, it is a seasonal vegetable!
There isn’t much local fruit around just yet. Fruits really come into their own next month, when you’ll start to find local strawberries and gooseberries reaching full ripeness.