Seasonal food is important for extra freshness, value and flavour, find out ‘what’s in season’ this month and how to make the most of seasonal flavours from our Farm shop.
Pumpkins are the most famous of all the winter squashes, and are most associated with Halloween lanterns. Inside the hard orange or yellow skin, the bright orange flesh is sweet and honied. They are a particularly good source of fibre, as well as a range of vitamins and minerals. Season well to make warming soups, pies or as a side vegetable dish, roast the seed to make a delicious snack!
Part of the capsicum family, chillies come in scores of varieties and colours (from green through to yellow, orange and red) and are one of the most popular spices in the world. Chillies can be used fresh, dried or powdered, and the level of heat varies from type to type, from sweet and mellow to blisteringly hot – as a general rule, the smaller the chilli, the hotter the taste. The substance that generates the heat is called capsaicin, which is found mainly in the pith and, to a lesser extent, the seeds. But it’s not all about heat – each type has its own distinct flavour.
Like apples, to which they are related, pears come in thousands of varieties, of which only a small fraction are sold in the UK. Their fine, slightly granular flesh is much more fragile than apples and, unlike most fruit, they improve in flavour and texture after they’re picked. Great for cooking as desserts and used in sweet chutneys.
Colours range from red, to yellow and green, but all varieties fall into one of two categories: eating, also sometimes called dessert apples (including Cox’s Orange Pippin, Golden Delicious, Granny Smiths, Braeburn, Gala, Pink Lady and Jonagold) or cooking, with the latter being more tart in flavour, a result of their higher levels of malic acid (the best is Bramley, though Blenheim Orange and Grenadier. The texture can be very crisp and juicy or more yielding, according to variety. All apples are a good source of vitamins A and C, as well as fibre. Available in season from September to October but can be stored in a cool place for months.
One of the juiciest stone fruits, plums come in many different varieties, some sweet, some slightly more tart. All plums, however, have certain characteristics in common, with smooth, richly coloured skins and a hard central stone. Plums vary in hue from red to deep purple, or yellow to green. The cloudy bloom on their skin is natural and isn’t an indication of poor quality. All sweet dessert plums can be used for cooking, too to make a fab plum pie.
A favourite in 1970s British salads (cooked and pickled in vinegar), beetroot is a root vegetable with dark purple skin and pink/purple flesh. It has also enjoyed something of a deserved comeback in recent years – its earthy, rich, sweet flavour and vibrant colour lends itself to a variety of both sweet and savoury dishes. Fresh beetroot will keep for several weeks in a cool, dark place. You can also buy packed cooked beetroot, which is great for pickling and roasting or simply chopping and adding to salads, these will last for several months in the fridge.
A member of the cabbage family, the swede is often confused with the turnip, though they look quite different. It’s also known as yellow turnip, Swedish turnip and Russian turnip. Swede has a round shape and a purple-green skin, and the flesh is yellowy-orange, with a sweet, earthy flavour. It disintegrates fairly easily if overcooked, so always keep to cooking times.
Cauliflower is incredibly versatile as you can see from our wealth of recipes – from curries, to soups to the comforting cauliflower cheese. Inexpensive and local, it ticks all the right boxes, so don’t skimp on this classic British vegetable.
This striking fruit, with its fresh green or deep purple skin and vibrant deep pink flesh, is a wonderful addition to the autumnal table. Figs have a naturally high sugar content, making them an ideal match for equally intense ingredients, such as salty parma ham, a classic combination.
Fresh from our own herd, new season Lamb has the sweetest of flavours. Many different cuts of lamb are available, which you buy depends on how you want to cook it. For roasts, the best cuts include leg, breast, best end of neck (also known as rack of lamb), shoulder, saddle, rump and loin this time of year. Lamb is also available minced (good for shepherd’s pie) and you can also buy lamb offal (mainly the kidneys and liver but also, less commonly, the heart and the sweetbreads), which is quick to cook, cheap and nutritious. Our butchers cut any size to suit…
The cabbage, or brassica, family is huge, and includes everything from the familiar red, white or green varieties with tightly packed leaves, to cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts as well as pak choi, popular now in cookery. The round, crinkle-leafed Savoy cabbage and the pale, lozenge-shaped Chinese leaf are considered to be two of the best to cook with. The flavour of cabbage varies from type to type, ranging from savoury to gently sweet, but one thing they all have in common is a rank smell if overcooked, so brief cooking is key.
The mushroom is a fungus which comes in a wide range of varieties that belong to two distinct types: cultivated and wild. If foraging in the forest, it’s important to know what you’re looking for. Great for cooking, shallow fry in oil (although they do soak up the oil) as a side dish or added to home-cooked stew or casseroles.
The carrot, with its distinctive bright orange colour, is one of the most versatile root vegetables around – a result of its sweet flavour, which means it can be used raw or cooked, in sweet or savoury dishes.