Spring is here in abundance now. It is time to be working in the garden, enjoying the outdoors and watching everything grow back to life after the long winter dormancy.
In the wild the primroses and cowslips are in bloom and if you are a forager then there’s wild garlic, nettles, morel and St George mushrooms to be found.
Both these mushrooms have a very short season. Morel mushrooms are the most expensive and most sought after spring mushroom. However, there is unfortunately a false morel which is poisonous and potentially deadly, so my advice is that if you do go foraging for these mushrooms go with an experienced hunter. If in doubt do not eat!
St George mushrooms (named after the time of year they are ripe for foraging) are found in a wide variety of habitats including woodland but tend to prefer chalky grassland. Apparently these mushrooms are ranked amongst the finest in the wild and in France they are known as le vrai mouserron ‘the true mushroom’. Again, if you are unsure about picking the right one do not eat!
There are plenty of herbs in season this month – Rosemary, Chives, Mint, Parsley, Sorrel and Watercress. All can be used with the seasonal fish (such as Pollack, Salmon and Sea Trout) and meat (such as Spring Lamb and Wood Pigeon).
Herbs are any plants with leaves, seeds or flowers used for flavouring, food, medicine or perfumes. Culinary and medicinal herbs are used differently. In medicine any part of the plant might be considered a ‘herb’, for example leaves, roots, flowers, seeds, resin, root bark and berries.
In the kitchen the use of the term herb distinguishes between herbs, from leafy green parts of a plant (either fresh or dried), and spices (from other parts of plants, usually dried, such as seeds, berries, bark, root and fruit). Many of the herbs we use regularly are perennials such as thyme and lavender. Others are biennials such as parsley or annuals like basil. There are also some that are shrubs such as Rosemary and even trees such as Bay. There are some that are used for both herb and spice such as dill and coriander.
The shrub Rosemary (Latin name Rosmarinus officinalis meaning ‘dew of the sea’), native to the Mediterranean, is an evergreen plant and so available all year round. This month the plant will start and bush out and flower and the flowers can be blue, pink or white depending on the variety. It is a good time to trim back the straggly parts of the bush to encourage the new growth and keep it in a good shape. There are of course a wide variety of plants available from good garden centres. Apparently, Chef favourites are ‘Miss Jessup’, ‘Tuscan Blue’ and ‘Spice Island’, plants that grow 4-6 feet high, with larger leaves that hold their flavour when cooked or dried. They make lovely ornamental plants and no garden or patio should really be without one.
Rosemary with its piney flavour goes well with poultry, fish, lamb, beef and game especially when roasting. It enhances tomatoes, spinach, peas and mushrooms. Whole sprigs can be used to flavour oils and vinegars to make marinades and the sprigs can be used as skewers for kebabs.
Try this lemon and rosemary marinade using:
3 large lemons
½ cup fresh rosemary
¼ cup olive oil
6 cloves garlic, minced
Juice the lemons. Place the juice and lemon halves into a bowl with the other ingredients mixing well. Marinate your meat or vegetables for at least 4 hours.
Did you Know:
- In ancient Greece, Rosemary was recognized for its alleged ability to strengthen the brain and memory. Greek students would braid Rosemary into their hair to help them with their exams.
- Rosemary is also known as the herb of remembrance, it was placed on the graves of English heroes.
At the end of this month look out for
Pimlico Food Festival at Tachbrook Street Market
British Asparagus Festival – 23rd April to 21st June 2011
The town of Evesham is launching the world’s, first-ever Asparapancake Race as a prelude to this festival. Evesham will host the race at 11am on Shrove Tuesday and participants, including Gus the Asparagus Man, will all be sporting green in tribute to this special vegetable. Local celebrity chef, Felice Tocchini, will be cooking up the pancakes for the race which will incorporate – you’ve guessed it – asparagus.