Five Things to Eat in the Hungry Gap
The ‘hungry gap’ is the gardeners’ name for the stretch of time in spring when there is little fresh produce in our gardens. Traditionally it ends with the season’s first broad beans. There is still plenty for us to eat before they arrive though, and I often think it’s just a case of looking for some unsung heroes. Here are five seasonal ingredients for now, with some of my favourite ways to use them.
1. Purple Sprouting Broccoli
Purple sprouting broccoli is my broccoli of choice for most dishes. I love its violet plumes, the fact that it’s grown right here in the UK for most of the year, and that when the long winters draw in the flowers of this hardy little brassica are the only green thing above the ground. With heaps of vitamin C and fibre, among many other vitamins and minerals, these are amazing little stems.
Try it in: Laura’s green herbed quinoa
2. Jersey Royals
The first new potatoes for me are as much a sign that summer is around the corner as strawberries or asparagus are. The little jersey royals don’t look like much, covered in their telltale mat of dusty brown soil but, after a dousing of cold water and good scrub, their golden skins are unveiled, so thin you can flick them off with a thumb. I remember digging up new potatoes as a kid – as soon as they were out of the ground I’d try to rub the skins off with my thumbs. They seemed so tiny, sweet and friendly; tiny jewels of the earth.
Try them with: these four dressings
3. Wild Garlic
In early spring wild garlic lines our hedgerows, paths and parks. You can smell it a mile off, so it’s pretty easy to be sure you have the right stuff. It’s a great place to start gathering your own food – there is a satisfaction from picking something from the wild which would have otherwise gone unloved. While the leaves will smell very garlicky in the hedgerows as you pick them, they will mellow as they cook so don’t worry.
Try it in: Wild garlic baked eggs
4. Spring Greens
Greens occupy an ever-present spot on the bottom shelf of my fridge, making their way into almost every meal I cook. Now the cavolo nero, cabbage and chard that saw me through winter are making way for more delicate, subtle and quicker-cooking greens: lemony sorrel, peppery watercress, verdant nettles and spring greens.
image: Matt Russell
Leeks are underrated – but they are an ingredient in so many of my favourite dishes. I love to cook them slowly with a little oil or butter and a pinch of salt to add natural sweetness and an almost buttery texture to dishes.
Try them: Leeks agrodolce