In Season: July
There’s a fair chance that a few English Opal Plums (small, ovoid and sweetly vanilla-esque) might start to trickle-in during the month. Damsons, too, are likely to make an appearance, although they’re more of a cooking plum rather than a desert variety. French President Plums, which are large, bold and succulent and French Reine Claude Greengage Plums should arrive in season by the second week. With any luck, English greengages should arrive before the end of the month.
English Blueberries should start to arrive fairly early in the month, most likely from Dorset, and are renowned for being plump, juicy and beautifully perfumed.
English Red Gooseberries, which are more tender, less sharp and much sweeter than their green cousins, should be available by mid-July.
The European Cherry season is quite short, so there’s a good chance that they may not see it to the end of the month. However, Canadian, Northern U.S. and mountain-grown Turkish imports should see us through to mid-August – but their price will be very high in comparison.
New season English Red Baby Gem Lettuces, which should be available in July, possess large, loosely-packed maroon coloured leaves that are slightly more bitter than those of green gems. Use both together and each will simultaneously contrast with and compliment the other.
Both French and English Mixed Heritage/Heirloom Tomatoes should be available throughout the month and furthermore be of excellent quality. I’ve mentioned in the past how the French collection is generally regarded as perhaps providing the widest range, but having had the chance to compare the two, side-by-side, so to speak, I must say that the English are pretty impressive in their own right. Regular English Salad Tomatoes should reach their peak this month.
English Iceberg, Cos/Romaine, Oakleaf, Lollorosso and Lollobiondi Lettuces will remain excellent throughout the month.
English Runner Beans should make an appearance early in the month. The most common variety grown and eaten in the UK is the Scarlet Runner, so named because of the colour of its decorative flower. Its pod is long, flat, pale green, meaty and tender and its distinctively flavoured kidney-shaped seeds are a kind of beige with dark red flecks. A 100g portion is a rich source of folate and contains 0.2g of fat, of which 50% is saturated; it provides 3g of dietary fibre and supplies 20kcal (85kJ) of energy. Runner beans also contain traces of a poisonous lectin and should therefore be cooked thoroughly before consumption.
English Yellow Courgettes, most likely from Kent, should appear within the first couple weeks; so too should English Baby Courgettes, as well as English new season Marrows.
Extremely versatile, but surprisingly under-utilised in the UK, just-in-season English Chinese Leaf can do just about everything you might require from a leafy green vegetable. It has the tenderness and lusciousness of a salad leaf combined with the substance and heartiness of a cabbage and can likewise be eaten raw, shredded and used in slaws, boiled, steamed, stir-fried or wilted.
Watch out this month for the arrival of both English Green Cauliflower and Romanesco. Romanesco, let me remind you, is the luminous-green, cauliflower-like veg whose florets are in the form of cone-shaped peaks and possesses a flavour similar to that of broccoli, which is due to the fact that it is indeed a member of the same family.
New season English Summer Parsnips should make an appearance not later than week two of the month. They’ll initially be on the small and slender side, which shouldn’t be considered a disadvantage because it means that they can be roasted whole or merely halved and without needing to remove the central core, which this early in the season won’t have had time to become dry and woody and should therefore be tender and succulent.
New season English Corn-On-The-Cob is another highlight to look out for around week two. Of a good size and still encased in their tight, rubbery shrouds, the kernels of early crops can tend to be a little pale, but one shouldn’t infer from this that they might be lacking in sweetness or overall flavour.
July Fruit Bowl
With such an abundance of choice available during the month, the principal dilemma when assembling fruit bowls, baskets or platters in July isn’t so much a question of what to include, but rather what to leave out.
Apples and Pears are likely to become more expensive as European crops start to dwindle and we switch to southern hemisphere alternatives. On the positive side, however, there should at least be plenty of varieties from which to choose, including Golden and Red Delicious, Granny Smiths, Royal Gala, Braeburn and Pink Lady/Cripps Pink should all be good. Most Pears which are in circulation at the start of the month will in all likelihood already be predominantly South African; by the time we reach the middle of the month, however, it's quite possible (as has sometimes been the case in recent years) for Spanish Guyot to start appearing in the market.
As far as Stone-fruit is concerned, Spanish (and possibly Israeli) Plums should be particularly good, with French and English varieties starting to become available during the latter part of the month.
Apricots, Peaches (including White-Fleshed) and Nectarines (also White-Fleshed) from all parts of continental Europe should excel throughout July. Both Flat Peaches and Flat Nectarines, should all be abundant and available at reasonable prices. It’s likely, too, that even the odd Peachcot (which, as the name suggests is a Peach/Apricot hybrid) will start to appear.
Cherries, Strawberries, as well as both Green and Red Gooseberries will all be in top form to add an extra touch of elegance to your compositions.