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Rozanne Stevens | My Early Summer Seasonal Shopping Basket

If you look in my shopping basket you may see a bottle of bubbly and some chocolate, but you’ll notice that more than half is made up of fresh fruits and vegetables. As a citrus farmer’s daughter, I have grown up with a love of fresh produce and it’s reflected in my style of cooking and personal lifestyle which I want to share with you.

I celebrate local and in-season produce, but I’m also not going to give up my love of exotics that fill Irish shelves such as mangoes, bananas, avocados and citrus fruits. However, by eating mostly in season you will catch the fruit at its very ripest, best tasting and most enjoyable. These are some of the fresh fruit and veggies you’ll see in my shopping basket in May/June – but rhubarb and asparagus are strictly still seasonally available, so enjoy them before they’re gone for another year!

Seasonal fruit: Rhubarb

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Rhubarb cannot be eaten raw so you need to poach chunks of rhubarb in water or orange juice or bake in the oven. Tip: I like to add fresh ginger, a cinnamon stick and vanilla to the rhubarb as it cooks, it really marries well in flavour. Rhubarb is very tart, so you’ll need to add a sweetener of your choice, like sugar, honey or maple syrup. You can cook up a batch of rhubarb and enjoy it all week. It’s no secret that I love rhubarb and for recipes and lots more ideas on how to cook it, read my recent blog.

Seasonal Veggie: Asparagus

Asparagus is the cool, sophisticated character of the fresh produce world. Slightly mysterious too as it’s so seasonal, so we don’t become indifferent to its availability. My favourite way of preparing asparagus is to roast it in the oven coated with olive oil, salt and pepper. Or even better grilled on a BBQ or griddle pan and served with Parmesan cheese shavings. The scorching really brings out the flavour. Or alternatively, treat it very tenderly: lightly steam asparagus spears for three minutes and serve with smoked salmon and a runny poached egg. Asparagus is wonderful addition to a Niçoise or Caesar salad or my newest discovery is shaving asparagus spears with a vegetable peeler and adding raw to salads. Yum!

Seasonal Fruit: Strawberries

I eat handfuls of strawberries at a time, they really are a superb fruit and a great snack to fuel the working day and you can add a berry bundle to any Fruit People office delivery. The Irish strawberry season started at the end of March and we’ll be able to enjoy greenhouse strawbs ’til Christmas but now is when they are entering their prime and the juiciest, sweetest season. Strawberries are best enjoyed at room temperature and they pair well with vanilla, flaked almonds, coconut and mango, plus they’e delicious added to savoury salads if you’re cooking in the office kitchen! Slice up and scatter over baby spinach leaves and thinly sliced cucumber, sprinkle over chopped pecan nuts and crumbled feta cheese. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar reduction, which you can now buy in handy squirt bottles in most supermarkets. If you haven’t scoffed them all and some are past their prime, add to smoothies, or mash ever so lightly for use as a porridge or yoghurt topper. 

Seasonal Fruit: Blueberries

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Blueberries have surged in popularity, due to their many health benefits (read more about them here on The Fruit People blog with some additional recipe ideas) and they are one of the most popular additions to Fruit People deliveries, Brian and Barry tell me! As they’re not a ‘grab ‘n go’ fruit like a banana or apple, you really do need to plan when to eat them so they don’t go to waste. I add them to hot porridge so that they burst and add a delicious fruity flavour. Or at the weekend, lightly poach two cups of blueberries in a small pot with the juice of an orange and a tablespoon of maple syrup for five minutes. Add a little vanilla or a cinnamon stick too, if you like. Bottle the blueberry compote in a sterilised glass jar and use throughout the week on Greek yoghurt, pancakes or cinnamon toast. Blueberries past their best are incredible in smoothies, as you probably already know!

Seasonal Veggie: Radishes

I have a love affair with radishes, especially if I’m styling food for photographs – thinly sliced radishes are just so pretty. But they are also deliciously crunchy with a sharp bite, which I love. Thinly slice half a bunch of radishes and add to a green salad with crunchy apple slices. Serve as a simple, stylish lunch with smoked, peppered mackerel fillets which you can buy ready-prepared in the fish fridge of most supermarkets. Halved radishes roasted in the oven with olive oil and salt until tender are also a revelation and they go a gloriously pale pink colour. Smash onto hot buttery toast, or toss into a salad with quinoa, feta, nuts and baby spinach leaves.

Seasonal Tuber: New Potatoes

Being half-Irish, I have a deep appreciation of a great spud. So I await the new potato season armed eagerly with good Irish butter and sea salt. For that is all they need after simply steaming or boiling them. Make at least double to have the leftovers as an awesome laptop lunch with crispy bacon, hard boiled eggs, gherkins and a mustard vinaigrette. Or smash up in a hot skillet and cook in butter with other leftover veg until crispy for a super breakfast hash. Top with a medium soft fried egg for runny egg deliciousness. I like making skin-in ‘dirty mash’ too, whereby boiling halved new potatoes with the skins on until tender, then mash with butter, salt and pepper. Serve as is or as a perfect topping for cottage pie as the skin bits go super crispy when baked.
This month, try filling half your plate of bowl with fresh fruit and vegetables. You’ll be amazed at how tasty this way of eating is, and how good you’ll start to feel!

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Rozanne Stevens is acclaimed chef, author and cookery tutor from South Africa based in Dublin. For more WorkPlace Wellbeing foodie content connect with Rozanne on TwitterInstagram and LinkedIn.