There are many different sorts of aubergines, but in this country we most often the large deep glossy purple variety and packs of ‘baby’ ones. They are soft fleshy vegetables often found in middle-eastern and Asian dishes.
Nutritional benefits: Aubergines are low in fat and calories, but a good source of fibre and B vitamins.
Forget the school dinner horrors of pickled beetroot in sharp vinegar - this beautiful, colourful vegetable is far tastier the natural way and it has far better uses, as you will see from our suggested recipes!
Beetroot is a nutritious root vegetable which is favoured as a colourful salad ingredient, as well as providing rich earthy tones to soups and stews.
Season: July-January (although some claim to grow it all the year round...)
Broad beans are actually related to the pea family so contain more protein than most vegetables. Some of their most creative uses are found in Middle Eastern and Southern Mediterranean cuisine, where the dried beans are also used. They have been an important staple in the human diet for thousands of years, with traces found in European Iron and Bronze Age settlements
Season: June-August, but best early in the season, before they get too chewy. Baby broad beans are also sold in freezer sections of food shops and are a cheap and useful staple
Description: Broccoli is commonly found all year round as it is so widely used, and so imported, but it is good to eat it in season. Tightly packed green florets form the heads of broccoli; other varieties grown in smaller sections, such as purple sprouting broccoli.
Nutritional benefits: Broccoli is an excellent source of folate and vitamin C. It is also packed with vitamin K.
The tiny sibling in the cabbage family, the humble sprout are a winter cropping brassica, most familiar at Christmas time. Don’t be scared or put off by any bad reputation - our recipes really will help you discover new and delicious ways to enjoy them. Season: Winter Nutritional benefits: Brussels are an excellent source of folic acid, which works together with vitamin B12 to form healthy red blood cells.
This variety of squash has a lovely firm flesh that has to be cooked all the way through. It is excellent roasted in a little olive oil, cut into halves or smaller pieces mixed with other veg. Season: Autumn Nutritional benefits: Excellent source of Vitamin A, which is essential for vision, bone and teeth development, growth and tissue repair. Also good for Vitamin C.
The traditional carrot is well-loved as the long orange root vegetable. It’s also possible to find them in white, yellow, red and purple and taking different shapes. Carrots are related to parsnips, fennel, parsley, anise, caraway, cumin and dill. Season: All year round Nutritional benefits: Carrots are an excellent source of vitamin A.
It is usually the white, bulging head of the cauliflower which is eaten, whilst the leaves are often discarded. Of four major groups (Northern Europe Annuals, Northern Europe Biennal, Italian and Indian), the cauliflower is used in a variety of dishes and can be roasted, boiled, steamed, fried or eaten raw. Season: Winter/Spring Nutritional benefits: Good source of vitamin C and fiber.
Celery is a crunchy green British vegetable, whose stalks can be eaten raw or cooked in a variety of dishes. Season: All year round and plentiful in summer Nutritional benefits: Wild celery was traditionally used in Asian medicine to treat high blood pressure. More recently studies have found that animals given celery extract (the equivalent of 4 stalks) had reductions in blood pressure of between 12-14% within a week.
Celery provides useful amounts of vitamin C, potassium and folate, and some insoluble fibre.
Swiss Chard is a delicious vegetable with pretty yellow or red-coloured stalks. Chop it fine and use like spinach, to which it is related. Eat with Vitamin C-rich vegetables such as tomatoes or peppers to optimise its yummy nutrients!
Chicory is generally used for its leaves, when cultivated it is distinguished by three types (Radicchio, Sugarloaf and Belgian Endive) and are usually eaten as part of a salad, however wild chicory (known for its bitter taste) is also used in some cultures (and cooked to reduce the bitter taste) which can then be used in other dishes such as pasta. Season: Winter Nutritional benefits: Chicory is a good source of vitamin A.
The courgette (also known as Zucchini) is a type of summer squash that can be dark or light green in colour and is capable of growing to almost a metre but is usually cultivated at half of the length. Unlike cucumber, it is usually served cooked, though can be eaten raw. It is eaten in various countries around the world, and examples of use are in cold or hot salads, baked in bread, etc. Season: Summer/August Nutritional benefits: Good source of vitamin A, C and potassium.
Cucumbers are a fresh and crunchy salad vegetable that can be incorporated into a variety of salads and sandwiches, or just eaten as sticks dipped into hummus. Season: Summer Nutritional benefits: Cucumbers are a valuable source of conventional antioxidant nutrients including vitamin C, beta-carotene, and manganese. Quick cook’s tip: Enjoy cucumber in slices, on Ryvita or other crisp bread, spread with vegan cream cheese, or cut into strips and dipped in hummus. How to chop cucumber
Curly kale is a member of the brassica family (cabbage, Brussels sprouts etc). This bargain superfood is very nutritious, with high levels of Vitamin A, K and C as well as minerals such as calcium, iron and manganese.
When is it in season?
It is a particularly useful winter vegetable as it's in season September to March.
Are there other types?
Other varieties include the trendy Italian cavalo nero (black kale) or red Russian kale - though our picture here is of the good old UK variety!
Fennel is both vegetable and herb. The bulb can be eaten raw or cooked; the leaves are nicest raw in salads. Its seeds are also aromatic and flavoursome. It is cultivated in many parts of the world. Season: Summer/Autumn Nutritional benefits: Excellent source of potassium, fiber and vitamin C. Quick cook's tip: Slice up fennel and pop into salads.
Cooking methods for fennel:
Globe artichokes are harvested young and tender in the summer. The hearts and the bottoms are edible, after the outer course leaves are discarded. They can be purchased fresh, but are also available ready-to-eat, marinated in oil for with herbs for tapas and plain and in tins. Season: June to November Nutritional benefits: Globe artichokes are used to aid digestion in traditional herbal medicine and are high in fibre, low in fat and are a good source of folic acid (vitamin B9). Quick cook's tip:
Leeks are related to garlic and onions but have a much subtler, sweeter and more sophisticated flavour, often used to enrich soups or stews Season: November-April Nutritional benefits: Leeks are an excellent source of vitamin C as well as iron and fibre. Quick cook's tip: Slice leeks thinly and steam them until soft and serve with vegan marg, salt and pepper. Cooking Leeks
Inspired by British Leeks
Onions are one of the most used of all vegetables, adding depth and body of flavour to many dishes. British onions are dense and brown-skinned. Outer leaves are removed to reveal white/green tightly packed rings. Family include red onions, the smaller, milder shallot, leeks, spring onions and garlic. Like all vegetables, the more colourful they are the higher in nutrients - so red onions add both extra vitamins as well as a lovely colour! Season: Available all year
Whilst peas are considered as a vegetable in cooking, the pods (which are also edible) are considered a fruit. The cultivated plant is grown in many parts of the world, and peas are used in a diverse range of dishes or eaten on their own as snacks. We are more used to buying them frozen all year round but fresh summer peas are a real delicacy. Peas are also a good source of protein as they are part of the pulse family, along with beans and lentils! Add them to risottos, soups, pasta sauce, curries... endless possibilities.
Did you know there are over nine varieties of potato grown in the UK? They all have different tastes and textures and blossom when used for various purposes. Small salad and new potatoes don’t need peeling. Skins from potatoes fresh out of the ground often just come off easily when rubbed under water.
Here are some of the main ones and what they are good for:
- Charlotte –boiling, roasting and for salads
- Desiree – potato wedges, jacket potatoes, chips, boiling, mashing, roasting
- King Edward – potato dauphinoise, chips, roasting, mashing
The green pods, beans inside and also the roots are all edible and are eaten in various cultures around the world. Because runner beans contain traces of toxic Lectin, they must always be cooked before they are consumed. Season: Summer/Autumn Nutritional benefits: Runner Beans are a good source of vitamin C and fiber.
Samphire grows near the sea and is native to the UK. It is in season July-August, although imports are available at other times of the year and has been spotted in large branches of Tesco and Asda!.
The most common variety is marsh samphire, which has bright green stalks, similar to baby asparagus. Its crisp, salty taste makes it different from asparagus however. Technically it can be served raw but is rather salty. We recommend steaming it for 2-3 minutes - avoid salting it or adding much salt to other ingredients as it is already salty.
Shallots are a smaller, more mellow member of the onion family. They can be bought all the year round now but for those wanting to eat seasonally, they grow from December-March in the UK. They work with all sorts of dishes but in particular, rich, deep vegan casseroles, stews or stir-fries - they are used a lot in Thai cooking. There are different types of shallots, including the pink, grey, brown and 'banana' - a longer shallot.
Spinach is sold as baby leaves (small leaves and very thin stalks, like our picture) or as a full grown adult, with bigger leaves and thicker stalks.
Shred large-leafed spinach and chop the stalks quite small so they cook quicker. Swiss Chard is a close relative and is cooked in exactly the same way. This vegetable family is not only quick to prepare and cook but it's full of useful nutrients . Eat with Vitamin C rich vegetables such as tomatoes for optimum nutrition.
Tomatoes are available all year round but best in the UK season, June-September. This vegetable is actually a fruit and comes from the Americas, first brought over to Europe by early white explorers. The Elizabethans called them 'love apples' as they were believed to be an aphrodisiac! Certainly, many world cuisines would seem strange without their colour and flavour - especially that of Italy and other Mediterranean countries, not to mention Central and South America.