It’s Maytime and the Mayflowers will be bursting and the dawn chorus awakens us earlier as days continue to draw out. Let’s hope it’s ‘goodbye’ to the chilly days and ‘hello’ to some dry, warm and sunny ones.
The swallows arrived in April so now it is time to look out for the one of the last migrant birds to arrive, the swift, which travels north with the progression of summer. The first butterflies to appear are those that overwinter, such as brimstone and small tortoiseshells.
The countryside and gardens will be lit up with vibrant colour as Rhododendrons and Azaleas come into bloom. The Rhododendron is a genus of over 1000 species of woody plants in the heath family.
They are found primarily in the northern hemisphere and were introduced to Britain in the late 18th century. It is unfortunate that some types are now a pest in Britain because they out-compete many native plants and also because their leaves contain toxins that some animals find inedible. Their spread is proving hard to control. However, in flower ‘en masse’ they can be stunning.
In season this month are Rhubarb, Courgettes, Radishes, Carrots, Spinach, Kales, Jersey Royals and my favourite Asparagus and Purple Sprouting Brocolli. Herbs around are Rosemary, Chives, Mint, Parsley and Sorrel. In the hedgerows you will find Nettles, Primroses and Wild Garlic. There is plenty of fish in season and for meat eaters Spring Lamb, Duck and Wood Pigeon.
I am choosing Asparagus again this month for my recipe. It has to be classed as one of the delicacies of the food year and it is such an easy vegetable to prepare and cook. The UK season is short so enjoy it now.
When buying asparagus, pick firm bright green or pale ivory stalks with tight tips. I was recently at a farmers market where they advised that if you cut the stems like flowers and stand them in a container with about 2 inches of water and keep in the fridge, they could stay fresh for up to ten days.
Chilled Asparagus with Feta Vinaigrette
1 ½ pounds fresh asparagus spears
½ cup chopped red pepper
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 dashes of your favourite hot sauce to taste
Whisk the cheese, fruit juices, water, mustard, olive oil and hot sauce in a bowl until combined and refrigerate until required.
Snap of the woody ends of the asparagus spears. Steam spears until tender-crisp about 2-3 minutes. Chill covered in the fridge.
To serve arrange the spears on plates. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and sprinkle over the chopped red pepper. Simple and delicious.