"What wondrous life is this I lead!
Ripe apples drop about my head;
The luscious clusters of the vine
Upon my mouth do crush their wine;
The nectarine and curious peach
Into my hands themselves do reach;
Stumbling on melons, as I pass,
Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass."
- Andrew Marvel
August must be my favourite month of the year, well certainly if it’s spent in Europe (the UAE is still somewhat stifling!).
For me, August is dedicated to well-deserved holidays, lazy afternoons on the terrace, endless country fairs and more importantly, farmer’s markets! The dramatic sunsets, no, the epic sunsets, and the fruit trees groaning with an abundance of delicious produce - it’s a foragers dream! If you’re lucky enough to be in Europe or North America during this heavenly month, then make the most of nature’s larder.
By now we are familiar with the importance of eating seasonally - it’s rewarding and challenging at the same time not to mention reducing the impact on our planet - but let’s not forget that seasonal food is cheaper. it’s fresher and hasn’t travelled a million miles.
Some of our favourite ingredients for August include:
Blueberries – a serious health food, full of antioxidants.
Swiss Chard – tasty and full of iron. It's also a great alternative to normal greens and they come in a variety of different colours.
Leeks – delicious when fried in a little butter or roasted with garlic.
Cauliflower – often seen as bland but it’s healthy and very cheap. The trend for low carb diets means it can be used as an alternative to rice (just whiz up in a food processor) and makes a great meat free curry!
Mackerel and Sardines – also incredibly cheap and healthy, plus they are full of natural oils! They're best grilled on a hot BBQ and served with a small salad. Yum!
Download the full list of seasonal produce for August here.
Pick your own, some of it’s free!
Pick your own can be a great family day out, it’s a great way to introduce the little ones to how food is grown and harvested. Grab some empty punnets from your local farm shop and stock up with plums, ripe strawberries, raspberries and even the gooseberries.
If your fortunate to live, or to have access to the countryside then nature's free larder is plentiful. The hedgerows are bursting with blackberries and plums. Try and pick some sloe berries if you can find them, or if, like me, you like a winter tipple then add a handful of these powerful little berries to a bottle of gin and you’ll have the ultimate winter warmer by November (they will need some time to infuse!).
Why not try something new? As we’ve said, seasonal foods are cheap, so why not try out a recipe that you’d normally never cook? Stuffed marrows? You’ll feed a hungry family with one of these beauties:
Cut the marrow lengthways and roast in an oven for 20 minutes. Meanwhile fry off some onions and garlic with some spicy chorizo and chopped tomatoes, add to the marrow and bake for a further 25 minutes, finish off with some cheese and fresh herbs!
Chard gratin? Create a colourful one pot wonder by adding this glorious leafy green to a classic potato dish, simply slice the potatoes thinly and toss together with the chopped chard, bake in the oven with generous amounts of gruyere cheese and a slash of cream.
Many of us many have memories of grandmothers and old aunts making homemade jams and chutneys, and I loved the numerous coloured jars lining the pantry with hand written labels with odd descriptions and dates of when they were made.
However, this is a really fabulous way to make your food go an awful lot further. A well-made chutney and pickle can last up to a year unopened and stored in the correct manner - be sure to use proper sealed and sterilised jars when making from home and keep away from sunlight!
I urge you to try a few at home, for example:
Tomato and red onion chutney – great as a side to cooked meats and as a sandwich spread.
Rich plum chutney – ideal after an evening meal with some decadent cheese and biscuits.
Blackberry or Strawberry jam – need I say more!
Stock up your freezer
Make the most of your freezer, especially as most of the seasonal fruits available wouldn't have been treated with hideous chemical’s so won’t last that long when picked.
Raspberries and strawberries seem to get eaten very quickly in my household but the free harvest of blackberries, apples and plums certainly stay around for a bit longer. If you’re not making jams and chutneys then cut up the apples and berries, stick them in a sealed bag and freeze. What’s better in the cooler months then a warming apple and blackberry crumble or a creamy plum clafoutis? :)