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:
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.
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
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.
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!