In Season: August
August should herald the arrival of English Discovery Apples. Although not technically the earliest of the English cultivars, they are the variety that tends to be the first to hit the market in significant numbers and therefore normally the first to appear on the high-street, and consequently the ones most associated with the start of the domestic apple season. They’re a small-to-mid-sized apple with a strawberry-like perfume and a pale green skin almost entirely covered by a rosy blush whose colour often bleeds into their crisp, slightly sharp flesh, giving it a pinkish tinge. They’ll likely be followed before the month is out by two more early season English varieties, namely, Early Windsor and Katy (See August Fruit Bowl below).
Yet another home grown Apple due to come into season in August is in fact a cooking variety – probably the most famous of all cooking varieties, the Bramley. Despite a number of alternatives becoming more widely available in recent years, the Bramley’s Seedling (to give it its proper title) remains by far the most popular cooking apple in the UK.
The Rambutan is roundish in shape and the approximate size of a small plum. It has a reddish-brown outer casing entirely covered in soft quills which give it the appearance of an exotic sea urchin. Remove the casing and what you’ll discover is a milky-white opalescent fruit, very similar in appearance to a lychee, whose juicy, tender flesh likewise surrounds a large semi-hard brown seed at the centre. Furthermore, the similarity with the lychee doesn’t end there, because it shares the same fragrant aroma and sweet yet slightly astringent floral taste. Anyway, August should start to see a steady stream of them arriving from about the second week.
Turkish Brown Figs should be back into season within 2 weeks of the start of the month, which means you’ll be in for a treat, because they are, quite simply, the best.
Spanish Songold Plums should be available quite early on in the month to replace their South African counterparts. Yellow skinned and yellow fleshed, early examples have a tendency to be small, hard and sour (not to mention expensive), so it’s always best to wait a while for them to not only develop into something worth eating (yellow plums generally, I feel, taste better when quite soft anyway), but also to become plentiful enough to make them more affordable.
UK grown Crown Prince Squash should arrive early in the month. Its shape is similar to that of a West Indian style pumpkin, but possessing a pale green, rather than orange, skin. Its flesh is orange and fibrous and surrounds a pulpy seed cavity at the centre and it can be cooked just like a Butternut squash, whose texture, composition and flavour is very similar. Other English Squashes to look out for as they trickle-in at various stages throughout the month include Onion Squash, Spaghetti Squash, Harlequin, Table Star, Muscat, Giant Yellow Patti Pan, as well as regular sized Yellow Patti Pan and Green Patti Pan.
Home-grown Cabbages, ranging from Summer Savoy to Spring Greens, as well as Red Root Spinach and Curly Kale will remain impressive and reasonably cheap throughout the month. Cauliflower, Broccoli and Romanesco will continue to bring joy to the eyes as well as the taste buds. English Corn-On-The Cob, Bobby Beans, Runner Beans and Broad Beans will be in peak condition.
Scottish Girolle (aka, Golden Chanterelle) Mushrooms should be properly in season in August. I say “properly” because although they start to appear in mossy, forested areas during late spring, they become more plentiful around this time of year – especially in the days following heavy bursts of summer rainfall. The girolle is among the most striking of wild mushrooms, with its rich golden colour, fluted shape and intense bouquet Although they’re found throughout Europe and North America, it is the Scottish girolle whose aroma is considered the most pungent and therefore the most prized of all. Furthermore, there should hopefully be a really good selection of Wild Mushrooms generally during much of August, including Bulgarian Yellow Chanterelles and Pied De Mouton, Grey Chanterelles from Belarus, and French Trompettes.
Most of the popular Salad Ingredients currently in season (by which I mean all the common varieties of Lettuces, as well as Radishes, Cucumbers, Celery, Beetroot, etc.) should all still be available from domestic growers throughout August.
English Cobnuts should arrive in season about mid-month. Cobnut is the old English name for the domestically cultivated form of Hazelnut. Cobnuts (also known as Filberts) are meant to be eaten in their natural raw ‘green’ state, prior to them having formed a hard shell. They’re arranged in clusters comprising 3-5 kernels, with each one tightly encased by overlapping, frilled green leaves. One of the most widely used nuts for culinary purposes, they are rich in protein and unsaturated fat. Moreover, they contain significant amounts of thiamine and vitamin B6, as well as smaller amounts of various other B vitamins. However, if you’d prefer them cooked, simply remove the outer leaves, arrange the kernels on a baking tray and roast at 150C/Gas2 for up to an hour, or until hard and browned. Alternatively, place 200g in a shallow dish along with 30g of butter and microwave uncovered on full power (900W) for around 6 minutes, stirring half way through.
AUGUST FRUIT BOWL
August is usually a good month for those planning and assembling fruit bowls, baskets, displays and platters.
Strawberries continue to be reasonably plentiful and not too pricey (weather permitting). Summer fruits such as Nectarines (including White Fleshed and Flat varieties) and Peaches (also including White-fleshed and Flat, as well as red-fleshed Blood Peaches) remain good and relatively cheap. Apricots will start to go off the boil a bit, becoming scruffy, dry and bland, and will usually disappear by mid-month, but they can often be substituted with Yellow Songold Plums.
August also heralds the arrival of a few home-grown autumnal fruits, such as Plums, and the first wave of English Apples, including Discovery (which will be the most prevalent early on), Early Windsor and sometimes even Katy. Furthermore, there should also be a good selection of imported European Pears.
European Cherries will start to dwindle and usually make an exit by the middle of the month – although crops from the USA and Canada. are often still available for a while after. Be advised, though, that these will be air-freighted and therefore command premium prices.
Figs are usually very good, and Tropical Fruits such as Pitahaya, Dragon Fruit, Tamarillos, Persimmons and Grenadillo should all be available. Lychees may be tight, but can be substituted with Rambutans, which are likely to arrive some time during the month.
- Jack Lawless