Although May can be an unreliable month for weather, spring produce truly arrives this month. April’s Wild Garlic flowers and fades, outdoor-grown Rhubarb knocks the Forced variety off its perch, and it’s the month the unbeatable Alphonso Mangoes from India are at their peak. This is also the month of juicy, peppery spring Radishes, crunchy small Cucumbers, English Watercress and Spring Onions. Fruit from Europe is moving from Citrus to soft fruits like Strawberries, and the first stone fruits in the form of Nespole (loquats) are arriving. Maybe there will also be Apricots soon. The Broad Beans, Peas and Wet Garlic from France and Italy are followed a little later by the English crops. And, of course, there’s English Asparagus, which we bring to you direct from the Kent countryside.
Here is a taster of the things you can expect to find here at Puntarelle & Co in the month of May:
There are earthy, saline Jersey Royal Potatoes still and versatile Cornish Potatoes.
Vitamin C, iron and calcium-rich Spring Nettle Tops, we get both English and French (bag with care!).
Perhaps some late English Wild Garlic leaves.
Watercress from our preferred English grower, Kingfisher.
Italian Tropea Onions and French Grelot Onions.
UK-grown sweet, juicy Cucumbers and mild, crunchy Spring Onions.
Italian Ridged Cucumbers which are so good for fermenting and pickling.
From Italy, Romano and Tondo Courgettes.
From our Kent Grower, English green Asparagus, both fat-speared and thin sprue. Also European purple and white Asparagus varieties.
New Spring season Rainbow Chard from Italy.
Italian Peas and Broad Beans.
Fat, sweet, stems of Wet Garlic from France before the English is ready (don’t forget most of the stalk is useable too.
Outdoor-grown Rhubarb, picked up from our preferred farmer in Kent, who also grows our Asparagus.
French Heritage Tomatoes along with large Pineapple Tomatoes. Later in the month we look forward to large Provence Tomatoes too.
Colourful spring varieties of Radish.
Cool weather harvests of bitter Radicchio and Chicories like Puntarelle and Cime de Rapa from Italy are falling away but there are Aubergines , Peppers and Tropea Onions. There are fat bulbs of Italian Fennel still.
Spinach varieties, the Italian arriving cut with their rosettes intact.
New season Aubergines from Italy.
Italian Green and Purple Artichokes, large and small.
Early in the month there could be Morel Mushrooms still.
Strawberries from France and Italy. The English ones could be with us towards the end of the month.
It’s a lean time for European fruits but the Nespole from Italy support the early Strawberries.
Alphonso Mangoes from India too.
Given the right weather conditions we can expect to see Apricots and we may see Cherries arriving.
Nespole arrive from Italy. In early spring, just as our stores of apples are emptying and before maincrop strawberries come good, they are a welcome sight. Looking a little like apricots, they can be smooth or slightly downy-skinned and vary from yellow to orange. They have a succulent flesh, a little tart, a little sweet with a tropical fragrance. They are a fragile fruit that keep only a couple of days at room temperature but up to a week in a cool place. They can be poached in sugar syrup and simply served with yogurt or ice cream, or added to a fruit salad. Under-ripe fruits make good jam and jelly, or chutney which goes well with fatty meats like roast pork.
Raw Asparagus Salad
Photo ©Evie Saffron Strands
The early English Asparagus from our Kent grower is wonderful eaten raw. Here is a recipe, inspired by our friends at 40 Maltby Street, celebrating the early spears. It also makes a little go a long way.
Raw Asparagus Salad
(Serves 4 as a starter)
8-12 asparagus spears
A handful of pea-shoots
A few mint leaves
1 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt & pepper
Snap the tough ends off the asparagus. Cut a diagonal slice off the bottom of each spear then slice them thinly. Add salt and pepper to the lemon juice and mix. Whisk in the olive oil to emulsify. Toss the sliced asparagus and the pea shoots in the dressing. Pile onto plates and serve. (Add a few curls, or a grating, of Italian Parmesan or English Berkswell cheese if you like).