This year we’re celebrating the seasons and all the wonderful ways in which they bring the worlds of food, wine and spirits to life.
Year-round availability of everything from Sicilian blood oranges to San Marzano tomatoes is pretty much a given in supermarkets around the UK. However, just because you can fill your bags with produce from around the world, it doesn’t mean you should.
Here at Enotria&Coe we’re huge advocates of eating the seasons, not simply for the rich, more flavoursome produce that results, but similarly in the interest of environmental sustainability, financial conservatism and nutrition.
To kick things off we’re starting with Spring, when lambs are frolicking through verdant green pastures, sweet pea shoots catch their first glimpse of sunlight, the winery springs to life and budburst marks the start of the season.
In celebration of eating with nature’s flux, we’re shining the spotlight on three hero ingredients we cherish during the Springtime.
Growing British asparagus is a labour of love, with each spear hand-harvested when it reaches the right height. As the first harbinger of Spring in the vegetable kingdom, when the ground defrosts the edible spears grow at a rate of six inches or more each day.
The word asparagus is derived from the Greek asparagos, meaning a shoot or sprout. First cultivated there more than 2,500 years ago, the stalky green veg is now native to most of Europe, western Asia and northern Africa.
Asparagus was once classified in the lily family, along with onions and garlic, but it’s now considered part of the Asparagaceae family. There are three varieties of asparagus: American and British, which is green and most common; French, which is purple, smaller, and fruitier in flavour; and Spanish and Dutch, which is white and more delicate than its siblings. All types pack a nutritional punch, with high levels of vitamins A and C, potassium, iron and calcium.
It’s typically in season in the UK from April until June, traditionally starting 23 April (St George’s Day) and ending on the summer solstice in June. Although the season is very short, British asparagus is well worth the wait for its unbeatable flavour, and the elegance that it adds to a wide variety of dishes.
The less time it takes to get asparagus from the field to the plate, the better it will taste because the sugars in the plant start to turn to starch once it's picked. British-grown asparagus takes about 24 hours to get from plant to supermarket shelf, but it's worth checking the sell-by dates and visiting PYO farms for the freshest specimens you can find. Asparagus from outside the UK will spend longer in transport.
Wine partner: Torelló Reserva Brut Special Edition NV
In a salad, pasta or simply cracked and gobbled up with some fresh lemon and chilli, crab is one of our most adored delicacies from the deep blue. Around the world, we consume about 1.5 million tons of crab each year, and our affection for these crustaceans dates back to pre-historic times. With more than 4000 species scuttling around the world’s ocean floors, crabs come in all different shapes and sizes – from the oyster crab which is smaller than a pea, to the Japanese spider crab whose leg spans can reach up to four metres. In the UK it’s the brown crab, with its sweet, succulent flesh that we’re most accustomed to seeing.
Crabs contain two types of meat: white, which is pale and delicate, and dark meat which has a more intense flavour. If you’re looking for more white meat, then choose a male crab which have bigger claws where this tender meat can be found. To get the best bang for your buck, avoid crabs that seem to have a lot of water sloshing around inside, or those that feel light for their size. When buying a whole crab, ensure they have all their pincers and legs intact.
In season in the UK from April through November, crab is the perfect spring seasonal hero for a food-lover’s menu, and pairs exceptionally well with a wide variety of wines – from Chardonnay to Pinot Gris.
And, as if you needed any more reason to treat yourself to a scrumptious crab this Sspringtime, remember their meat is packed with goodness – including vitamin B12, as well as boasting anti-inflammatory properties.
Wine partner: Mar de Frades Albariño
From chops and cutlets to whole-leg and shoulder roasts, lamb is truly one of the joys of the season.
Sheep thrive in a variety of climates, and communities across North Africa and Eurasia have been relying on the animal as a staple food source for centuries. In the UK, the Industrial Revolution ignited an increased demand for meat, and the population turned towards sheep.
Of all farm animals, lamb is the most closely associated with the seasons – nothing quite signals that Spring has sprung like new-borns bounding about the fields, hills and glens. Because lambs spend most of their time outdoors grazing on grass, they’re one of the most natural, free range meats you can buy.
Known for its delicate flavour and tender flesh, lamb is a sheep that is less than one year old. Spring lambs are usually between three and five months old, and it is at this point that their meat is ripe for eating – left much longer and it has a much stronger flavour and slightly less tender flesh. As with most things these days, imported lamb (particularly from New Zealand, where there are more sheep than people) is available all year around, but if it’s British lamb you’re after, wait until May or June.
While many of Spring’s hero ingredients lead us down the path towards a bottle of white wine, nothing quite brings us such joy as a lamb dinner and glass of red. New World Pinot Noir, Bordeaux or Rioja are all fine candidates to be enjoyed alongside a dish of lamb.
Wine partner: Peregrine Mohua Pinot Noir
Shop the full our full seasonal Spring range.