In the seasonal eating calendar, the arrival of warmer weather breaks the monotony of winter produce. For me, wherever I am in the world, I know spring is here when asparagus appears on the shelf at increasingly affordable prices.
The two other stars in the seasonal calendar are a range of dark leafy greens and being creative with the abundance of lemons.
The best of early spring produce
I love blanched asparagus in salads. Or in a stir fry, barbecued or baked, tossed in olive oil with a touch of salt. A quick blast in a hot oven, with some garlic and cherry tomatoes makes a great side dish.
I’m eying off this Neil Perry recipe, asparagus with tarator (walnut dip), for barbecue season.
Dark leafy greens
My Sydney garden has a decent crop of chard and cabbages ready to eat. In New Zealand I’m eating kale, silverbeet and perpetual spinach.
An old standby is finely sliced greens cooked with onion and garlic, then tossed through pasta or quinoa with a dash of lemon juice and olives.
Winter citrus is still abundant in Wellington and I’ve enjoyed eating mandarins straight off the tree.
But my favourite all year round is lemons. With a stack of homegrown lemons donated by friends, I’m drinking lemon, honey and root ginger brewed in a teapot or French press.
A squeeze of lemon juice can ‘brighten’ the flavour of vegetables, soups and seafood. Next time you make dhal try a mouthful, then again after you adding a splash of lemon juice and notice the difference.
If you have a stash, try freezing the juice in ice cube trays, to use later. Or pickle or preserve the fruit.
Although I sometimes make traditional preserved lemons, I like the flexibility of these thinly sliced, pickled lemons. Preserved or pickled lemons pair well with leafy greens, Moroccan Tajines, salads and seafood.