July ushers in a warm wave of verdant greens, beans and peas beside an abundance of summer berries and cherries. Now really is the time to eat the rainbow. Here are the best fruit and vegetables in season and ripe for the picking in Britain right now.
Yes, that’s right. Yellow and peach raspberries. How will you eat the rainbow this July? All photography: Natalé Towell
What fruit is in season in Britain in July?
British berries are the gleaming jewels in July’s fruit crown (you could say they’re the best in the world). Hedgerows are laden with strawberries, raspberries, gooseberries and blueberries. Trees are bursting with cherries and fields with outdoor rhubarb. It’s also the peak of multi-coloured tomatoes and the beginning of black, white and redcurrants.
Strawberries may be the darling of summer but you’d be a (gooseberry) fool to forget the huge variety of beautiful berries also in season. Tart gooseberries are synonymous with bygone summers, when growing your own was still commonplace after the war. Try your hand at a classic gooseberry jam to slather on toast, pop on ice cream or pipe into doughnuts. Gooseberries are naturally high in pectin, making for an easy peasy jam – all you need is equal quantities of fruit and sugar.
Strawberries are the most popular berry in the world thanks to being one of the sweetest. Some of the best ones will have a fruity scent and caramel flavour when ripe. They’re an undoubted match made in heaven with three of the best edible things in life, sugar, dairy and buttery pastry, as well as vanilla, hazelnuts and the cucumber-notes of borage.
Raspberries are like precious gems, where even washing them feels a sacrilegious to maintaining their beauty and aroma. Sweet, sour and a little floral (think violet), try not to pair with strawberries unless for decoration as their delicate perfume and sharp flavour can easily become lost when blended. Devour in combination with almond-based baked treats, apricots, peaches or white chocolate. Be sure to save a punnet of these beauties for homemade cordial so you can enjoy their sunshiny sweetness for months to come.
The season for British cherries is short, lasting from July and into September if it’s been a good summer. A mix of sweet, sour, floral and spicy flavours, its stone has an almond flavour that becomes apparent when cooked with them in. Make the most of a glut by pairing with its best buds – almonds, chocolate, or even a young, fresh goat’s cheese.
Field-grown rhubarb, also known as outdoor rhubarb, has a dark pink stalk that fades into green, as opposed to it’s bright pink forced sibling that’s grown indoors. Although not as delightful to look at and is less tender, outdoor rhubarb can be more flavoursome. It has notes of gooseberries and sour cooking apples with the aroma and fruitiness of strawberries. Its sharp flavour is tempered by a hit of sugar in desserts or try with lamb or oily fish.
Technically a fruit, now’s the time to sink your teeth into all shapes and sizes of the best British tomatoes. Take your pick of chocolate purple-brown, sunshine yellow, pale lime or fire engine red colours for flavours that range from sweet and fragrant to fresh and umami-packed. From hearty beef to the naturally sweet little piccolo, The Tomato Stall grow over 40 varieties of tomatoes on the Isle of Wight. Make like an Italian and enjoy them simply sliced into rounds, topped with fresh basil and drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil.
What vegetables are in season in Britain in July?
Fertile July welcomes a merry gang of vibrant vegetables, making easy-going salads and al-fresco dining a doddle. Look out for: artichokes, asparagus, broad beans, french beans, runner beans, beetroot (you’ll get it with its leaves on now), broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celeriac, chard, chillies, courgettes, fennel, kohlrabi, pak choi, peas, peppers, new potatoes, romanesco, samphire, chicory, edible flowers, lettuces, watercress, and button, cup, flat, enoki, griolle, oyster and shitake mushrooms.
Courgettes hail from the same family as cucumbers, melons and squash. They also come in a variety of colours, shapes and sizes beyond the usual forest green club as long as the width of a sheet of A4. Get away from bad bland ratatouille and pallid lasagne (often poor default veggie options) and savour their delicate flavour in salads, tomato sauce or with pasta in a summery take on a tray bake.
The bulbous and multi layered head of a globe artichoke look good enough to put in a vase (if you’re lucky enough to get a hold of one in flower it makes the perfect seasonal centrepiece), let alone eat. Underneath its outer layers sits a prized heart that’s perfect for preserving and slicing up to serve on bruschetta or pizza. Or enjoy simply with aioli after boiling them whole.
Each pod is a pocket of both sweet and savoury goodness. There’s also a unique satisfaction to podding fresh peas – peeling back a stringy side to reveal a bounty the same colour as the English countryside and seeing them pile up in a bowl as you go. Try with tarragon, asparagus, bacon, mint, potatoes, shellfish, beef, chicken, pork…pretty much anything savoury you like.
Celebrated by chefs for signaling the start of abundant summer produce, fresh broad beans can sometimes escape a home cook’s repertoire. With a relatively short season from June to early September, they need to be cooked quickly after being picked to retain the best flavour, much like garden peas. Put their vibrant flavour to good use in salty savoury dishes such as those with chorizo, parma ham or seafood, or use with or instead of peas in salads, pilaf and risottos.
Lettuces and edible flowers
You’ve got your curlies and your icebergs. But have you set foot into the world of punchy mizuna, Chinese lettuce and red frill or edible flowers like violas or chives? Seasonal salad mixes are usually only available direct from small-scale farms because they’re kind of folk who get excited about growing a range of lettuce varieties. Include a handpicked salad mix that changes as the season progresses in your weekly greens and chances are you too will actually get excited about lettuce.
Discover the latest in season British fruit and vegetables at farmdrop.com.
Need some seasonal culinary inspiration? See our recipes for your new summer menu.
Read on why eating locally and seasonally is better for you and the planet.