Summer tastes sweet
The summer solstice has already passed, and from here on in, the growing season is at its peak. So what can we expect to be finding and enjoying in July?
We are extremely fortunate to have such beautiful high quality produce in Ireland, even having a mild, wet climate means that we have a long growing season for many vegetables.
From beautiful tomatoes, new potatoes, refreshing watermelon, juicy ripe peaches, super-fresh green beans these are just some of the produce at its best during July. Our gardens and local farmers markets are filled with glorious choices.
During the spring and summer months I enjoy nothing more than sowing fruits, vegetables and herbs in the garden with the kids, and patiently waiting to enjoy the fruits of our labour. It is a great way of teaching and getting them interested in growing their food, understanding where it comes from, eating sustainably, learning about the environment, and they are more likely to eat their vegetables at dinner time.
New season Queens and Homeguard are a beautiful summer potato with peak availability July-August, but also look out for other new potato varieties like Orla, Pink Fir or Colleen, absolutely singing with flavour and take pride of place in a summer feast. Simply, cook and serve them with a drizzle of olive oil, a knob of creamy Irish butter, a good sprinkle of sea salt and black pepper – perfection. New potatoes also make the best potato salads, but can also be roasted, baked, steamed or boiled. Check out my stunning Potato Salad with Egg, Watercress and Pickles, the perfect addition to a beautiful sunny lunch or a leisurely afternoon picnic.
We are literally full of beans this time of year, from Broad Beans, Runner Beans, French Beans, Peas, Mangetout, Sugar Snaps are all incredibly fresh and crisp in the summer, and require little to no cooking – briefly blanch in boiling water. For a light summer pasta check out my Pappardelle with Pea, Pistachio and Mint Pesto.
Known as a hardy root vegetable grown for their crisp, colourful and peppery roots. Summer radishes are used as a crunchy addition to salads or as a beautiful accompaniment on a crudité or charcuterie board, or even just simply dipped in softened butter with sea salt or homemade hummus.
Salad leaves come in a huge variety, but keep an eye out for beautiful in-season local leaves including mizuna, red giant mustard, butterhead lettuce, Chinese mustard, wild rocket, swiss chard, leaf beet and lollo rossa.
Summer Strawberry Season in Ireland is truly quite magical. The juicy sweet fresh flavour is like no other and brings back so many childhood memories of picking our own on the local farm. For strawberry recipe inspiration check out my beautiful Strawberry and White Chocolate Cheesecake or for a more savoury dish my panzanella Italian inspired Strawberry Salad with crispy sourdough croutons, West Cork mozzarella, toasted pine nuts with a creamy balsamic dressing. If that was not enough, I even have a Roasted Balsamic Strawberry Ice cream recipe for you.
Gooseberries are in season, but need cooking. Poach lightly in sugar to make a sweet mix for pies or crumbles or gooseberry jam.
A mix between a raspberry and blackberry, Loganberries are only available in limited quantities, it is an extremely juicy berry with a tart, rich flavour, and can be eaten raw but often used for jam, summer puddings, pies or compotes as they are quite tangy.
Towards the end of July, we may also be lucky and get some Irish grown cherries and plums.
Growing your own herbs is a simple way to any flavour to your kitchen.
- Basil is a summertime staple herb, paired beautifully with juicy ripe heirloom tomatoes and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
- Mint is a super herb for both sweet or savoury dishes or even cocktail, including my Gin Smash.
- Chives add a great mild onion flavour, to vegetable, fish or meat.
- Thyme is the perfect accompaniment to most chicken dishes, roasted vegetables or placed in the BBQ with rosemary to create beautiful aromas and flavours.