Jersey royals and asparagus are always a welcome reminder of spring, but nothing says British summertime quite like a bumper crop of home-grown soft fruits.
From the vivid red strawberries that signal the approach of sunnier days and the dusky-orange apricots that are rich-picking throughout the summer, through to early autumn’s harvest of luscious figs and blackberries, these sticky, ripe treats taste all the sweeter thanks to having been grown close to home.
There’s perhaps no fruit so quintessentially British as the strawberry. These speckled red beauties always conjure up images of sun-drenched days, picnics and generous helpings of Pimms. There are hundreds of varieties grown in the UK, from Scotland to Kent, and they’re at their best from late May – look out for the Driscoll’s jubilee strawberry, which are perfectly heart shaped and incredibly sweet. If you can get your mitts on wild strawberries, which grow throughout the country, these will bring a delightfully heady perfume to your dishes, making them totally worth the hunt – they’re the crowning glory of the wild strawberry slice that graces the cover of this month’s magazine.
Whether scattered over a pavlova, sandwiched between a Victoria sponge cake, or simply served Wimbledon-style – drizzled with some cold, fresh cream – keep it British for the very best flavour and sweetness.
Stone fruits such as cherries, peaches and plums are also right at home in a proper British pudding. They taste heaps better when you buy them at their best, so it’s well worth waiting until they’re in season. In July, look out for the amazing crop of British cherries – they blow their imported counterparts out of the water in the flavour stakes.
Similarly, a beautifully in-season, home grown peach will evoke such dribbling-down-the-lips pleasure that’s it’s impossible to beat. This show-stopping fruity jelly recipe from the latest Jamie magazine is the ultimate way to showcase locally grown fruit. Throw in all your favourites and turn out a glorious, wibbly technicolor delight.
British fruit that’s readily available – raspberries and blueberries spring to mind – make brilliant-value, healthy snacks which can be eaten all summer. Try visiting a grow-your-own farm to get kids involved, then stash your bounty in the fridge ready to blitz up into smoothies, scatter over yoghurt, or simply be grazed on as a healthy snack when you need a sugar fix – not only are berries low in calories, they’re also naturally high in antioxidants and are packed with nutrients.
When it comes to British fruits, don’t just go for the headline acts, though – there’s a huge array on offer, many of which are criminally underrated. Gooseberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants are all in abundant supply in the UK and deserve just as much attention as their more popular cousins – they’re at home in a pie or crumble, or simmered down into a late summer jam. Look out for loganberries, available throughout summer, which taste a bit like a hybrid between a blackberry and a raspberry. For a moreish twist on a classic British treat, we love them in this amazing loganberry and malt custard tart from Jamie magazine’s bumper British issue.
Whether they’re used as a breakfast staple, a simple snack or become the stars of a seriously show-stopping dessert, British fruits are the perfect way to bring a dose of national pride to your dishes. Get them whilst they’re at their gorgeous, blushing best and you’ll never be short of inspiration.
For more inspiration on using British summer fruits, check out the feature by Jamie’s head pastry chef, Ed Loftus, on brilliant fruity desserts in the forthcoming issue of Jamie magazine, which hits shops May 14.
You can find more fruit recipes right here.
Words by Heather Taylor