SPRING is a great time to get fresh local produce. Lucy Wright takes a look at how you can revamp your diet.
With warmer weather finally showing its sunny face, it is not only the time to start shedding our winter layers, but time to freshen up our diet, too.
Whether you’ve given up junk food for lent or looking for a healthier lifestyle, seasonal foods can provide you with that energy kick you need to start off your spring.
Not only are you helping to lessen your own food ‘carbon footprint’ by reducing the air miles your nosh has travelled, you’re also lending a hand to local producers.
You may argue that sourcing your fruit and vegetables locally can be costly, but I’m here to show you that eating seasonal goods can work to your purse strings’ advantage.
The first thing to bear in mind is that seasonal foods are just that, seasonal, so there will always be a surplus of them on the market.
This surplus of produce is good news for all of us as no producer or seller wants to risk left-over food rotting on their shelves.
For this reason you will notice seasonal items are substantially cheaper than out-of-season produce.
Aside from this, you can always take to the old tradition of hedgerow picking.
Many hedgerows are left unexplored nowadays and this year I think we should all take a trip back to our childhood where we carried plastic tupperware boxes down the hedgerow and picked any foodie treasures we could find.
Just take care you know what you are picking and stay away from mushrooms unless you are an expert.
If this endeavour proves too wild for you, or your hedgerow is really more of a fence, you could always try a pick-your-own activity at your local farm shop.
The Grange farm shop, in Funtington, offers this fun novelty from late spring through to November (weather conditions permitting).
This is not only a great way to pick up some reasonable produce, it is also a great family day out and a good way to get children more involved in a wide range of foods.
If you are not one for getting your hands dirty, you can always revel in the rustic and sensory experience of getting your vegetables from farm shops.
Chichester is a great place for sourcing local produce like this as there are farm shops by the dozen.
However, before you can let loose among the plentiful displays of corn on the cob, homemade bread and onions, it is important to know what you’re looking for and what to do with it.
You don’t want to buy baskets full of produce, then realise you do not know what to do with it and let it go to waste.
At this time of year new produce is beginning to sprout onto the home-grown market ready for the early-summer sunshine.
In late March you can expect to be sampling anything from rhubarb to the aptly-named spring onion.
However, if you have more exotic tastes you could always try your hand at cooking with purple sprouting broccoli, black truffles or wild nettles.
The Grange farm shop offers rhubarb from late March onwards which is perfect for those colder spring evenings when you fancy a rhubarb pud with home-made custard or cream.
On a warmer day you could always conjure up your own rhubarb-style Eton mess with fluffy meringues and brown sugar.
If you have less of a sweet tooth, then take advantage of the much-loved spring onion.
Diced, they add a punch to any green salad and grilled, they add a punch to traditional cheese on toast.
As with most produce, it is worth buying when they are in season for the best flavour.
If you’re still eating your beloved Sunday lunch then you will be pleased to hear parsnips, swede and cauliflower are still very much in season due to the spring frost and heavy rain we have been experiencing of late.
If these ideas don’t spark your interest to try out seasonal fruit and vegetables more often, you might consider sampling fishmonger delights if you can.
Cockles, mussels, lemon sole and shrimp are the season’s must in the fish market so channel your inner French chef and give these seaside pleasures a taste.
As a vegetarian, these treats are out of range for me but nothing will stop me from making that classic rhubarb crumble to celebrate the positive weather change.