Pick of the Crop: Summer

Fuel up with the second in our series of quick and easy guides to the best of Britain's seasonal produce


Posted: 4 June 2009


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Most runners are keen to eat a healthy, balanced diet, and plumping for the fresh, seasonal food on your doorstep is an easy way to make sure your diet is made up of the freshest and most nutritious food around. Not only will eating local food boost your green credentials by reducing food miles, it could even save you money too.

Summer is officially here, and with it comes a feast of delicious British produce that’s been soaking up the sunshine. There’s a rainbow of world-beating fruit and veg plus seafood galore, so make the most of the fabulous food around you this summer – whether it’s in a crisp salad, sizzling on the barbeque or in a juicy fruit pudding.

Beans and Peas

The British summer serves up a bounty of beans and peas grown all over the UK, from broad beans popping up in June to September’s crop of green beans.

Why? Naturally low in fat and sodium, beans and peas contain high levels of Vitamin C, which helps the body heal wounds and fractures, and boosts the immune system – perfect to protect yourself when your resistance dips post-workout or to stave off coughs and colds before a big race.

Peas and beans will also give you stacks of energy for your sessions – they’re packed with folic acid and Niacin (Vitamin B3), nutrients that help release energy from food.

Cook: Beans and peas are simple, tasty and perfect for pepping up dishes from risottos to traditional roast dinners. Cook green beans al dente to enjoy them at their best. 

Try this: Minty Broad Bean Dip. Cook 200g broad beans for 4-5 minutes. Rinse and shell the beans, and then put them in a food processor with 200g Greek yoghurt, a small handful of mint leaves, a little grated Parmesan and a clove of garlic, and whiz until you have a thick green puree. Season, and serve with a selection of dippers – breadsticks, sliced cucumber and peppers are tasty accompaniments.

Buy: Get along to your local greengrocer for field-fresh beans and peas, or search out British veg in your local supermarket. Look for bright-green peas and crisp-looking beans with a firm and bright exterior.

Trout and oily fish


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Whether you’d rather tuck into sea trout, rainbow trout, mackerel or sardines, Britain’s rivers, lakes and seas are thriving with fishy goodness in summer.

Unlike its wild past, the indigenous brown trout, as well as rainbow trout, are now mostly farmed in freshwater farms. There are trout farms all over the UK, but particularly in central and southern Scotland, south England and North Yorkshire.

Why? Oily fish like trout are packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, which can protect against coronary heart disease and alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis – keeping you healthy and running stronger for longer.

Cook: Oily fish are usually firm enough to leave whole and pop on the barbeque, whether straight on bars or wrapped in a parcel to cook in the hot coals underneath.

Try this: For simple and delicious baked trout, slip a clove of garlic inside a gutted whole trout, sprinkle over lemon juice and season. Make a loose parcel out of greaseproof paper and wrap the fish. Bake in a medium oven for half an hour.

Buy: Fish for your supper at trout farms around the UK, or head to a farm shop or fish counter for the best fresh British fish. Make sure your fish is shiny with smooth scales, and avoid fish that smell overly ‘fishy’ or have dull eyes.

Beetroot


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Beetroot has been popular with cooks from the Roman Apicius to the creators of the famous Eastern European beetroot soup, borscht.

British beetroot is grown in East Anglia’s fenland, which has the perfect combination of soil, sun and water to produce sweet beetroot from July right through to October.

Why? Beetroot is the perfect fuel for running. Virtually fat-free and low in calories, it has a ‘medium’ GI rating with an extremely low Glycaemic Load (GL), which means it’s converted into sugars very slowly – just the thing to keep blood sugar levels stable and fuel long runs.

Beetroot is also a rich source of carbohydrate and protein, and has high levels of antioxidants, potassium, magnesium and folic acid. It also contains betaine and tryptophan (also found in chocolate), which relax the mind, create a sense of wellbeing and are used to treat depression.

Cook: To cook beetroot, don't peel or cut it, or the colour and nutrients will escape. Just scrub the beets gently and twist off the green tops.
Grate raw beetroot into salads for sweet flavour and a stunning injection of colour, or juice it with other vegetables like carrots and celery. Beetroot’s also great, believe it or not, in squidgy chocolate brownies and cakes.

Try this: Beetroot and celery salad – a zingy combination of brilliant colours and the contrast of sweet beetroot with crunchy celery.

Make the dressing by combining two teaspoons wholegrain mustard, half a teaspoon sugar, the juice and zest of an orange and a little olive oil. Stir in sliced or cubed beetroot and sliced celery, and serve.

Buy: You can find a massive range of British beetroot in most supermarkets and greengrocers, from raw whole beets to ready-prepared packs. For more information go to www.lovebeetroot.co.uk.

Summer berries


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Gooseberries, blueberries, cherries, raspberries, tayberries, loganberries, redcurrants, white currants, blackcurrants – from the first spring strawberries to blackberry picking on a chilly September day, the summer months are a feast of British fruit.

The UK has the perfect climate for these delicious and colourful treats.

Why? It’s a no-brainer – strawberries contain more vitamin C than oranges, are high in fibre, low in calories and a good source of folic acid. Raspberries are also packed with vitamin C and dietary fibre, while blueberries are famous for packing antioxidant power.

Blackberries and blueberries may also reduce the risk of heart disease.

Cook: Wash and eat berries on their own, or add sugar, cream or ice-cream for a sweet summer treat.

Try this: Eton mess. For a simple and sophisticated summer pudding, whip some cream and crumble meringue into it. Pop your choice of summer berries in a blender and whiz briefly, then swirl all three together and serve.

Buy: Spend a summer afternoon picking your own fruit at a farm or off hedgerows near you – or head to your local grocer’s for the pick of the British crop. Look for firm, bright fruit, and avoid bruised or squidgy fruit and punnets with juice in the bottom – it won’t last very long.

Tomatoes


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Brits get through a whopping 420,000 tonnes of tomatoes a year, with around a quarter of that grown in the UK.
Heated glasshouses mean the British tomato season runs from February until November, with tomatoes grown outdoors between July and October.

Why? Tomatoes are tasty, low in calories, and contain virtually no fat and no cholesterol.

Tomatoes are also an excellent source of Vitamins A, C and E, and contain calcium – vital for healthy bones – and potassium, which is thought to lower blood pressure.

Cook: Tomatoes are a sub-tropical fruit so you should avoid keeping them in the fridge – not only will it spoil the flavour, but over-ripe tomatoes will actually go soft even more quickly in the fridge.

Tomatoes taste great partnered with mint, parsley, basil and oregano, and feature heavily in countless Mediterranean and Indian dishes. Use up over-ripe tomatoes to make soups or sauces – which you can stockpile in the freezer for up to six months.

Try this: Prepare your own 'sun-dried' tomatoes by sprinkling equal amounts of caster sugar and salt over halved tomatoes. Place them cut-side up on a baking sheet and cook in the oven on a low heat for two and a half hours, until most of the liquid has dried out. Store in a jar of olive oil, and toss through spaghetti with pesto for a quick and nutritious post-run dinner.

Buy: It takes just a day or two for a British tomato to make it from the field to the vegetable counter. When you’re picking tomatoes, go for glossy, firm and bright tomatoes, and avoid pale, dull, bruised or dented veg.


Watercress


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Watercress has long been a popular health food, known for its revitalising properties – the ancient-Egyptian Pharaohs even gave their slaves watercress juice to increase productivity.

Nowadays it’s grown across Hampshire and Dorset, and is ready for harvest just in time for summer salads.

Why? Gram for gram, watercress contains more vitamin C than oranges, more calcium than milk, more iron than spinach and more folate than bananas, and is packed with antioxidants, vitamins B1, B6, K and E, magnesium, manganese and zinc.

The winning combination of vitamin B1 and magnesium, which help the body release the energy from food, plus calcium to build and maintain healthy bones, will keep you running strong.

Cook: Watercress is a fabulous addition to salads, soups and smoothies. Add watercress to rocket and spinach for a peppery salad with real bite.

Try this: Watercress, apple and kiwi smoothie. Peel and chop three apples and four kiwi fruit. Pop them in a blender with 50g watercress, blend and enjoy!

Buy: Within hours of being picked, British watercress is chilled and packed into 'washed and ready to eat' bags. Pick up a bag of watercress, on its own or teamed with other leaves, from your local greengrocer or supermarket. Look for dry, perky and unbroken leaves and stems, and ditch slimy or broken leaves.


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Discuss this article

This article has made me hungry! There is nothing like fresh produce. But I often find in the supermarkets the fresh produce is not that fresh... How often can you smell the tomatos for example as you enter the vegetable section???

 This is something that I'd never thought of until I moved to Portugal, where you can smell the tomatos and the other fruit and vegetables.... and should that not be part of the whole experience?

 http://sprigsnsprogs.wordpress.com


Posted: 20/02/2011 at 22:23

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