Q: How does one survive the ‘hungry gap’?
A: For the keen gardeners and seasonal eaters amongst us, March spells an empty veg patch and dwindling winter food stores: the hungry gap between the last hardy brassicas of the winter and the first new-season broad beans of spring.
It’s certainly a challenge to continue eating with the seasons this month, but a tasty one. Bridge the gap by seeking out the best local produce you can find, and maybe even forage for your own seasonal treats too. At farm shops and market stalls look out for new crops of purple sprouting broccoli – surprisingly versatile and easy to transform into a feast, stalks and all – and the last of the kale, leeks and parsnips. And, if you can still face them after Christmas, sprouts. Radishes start to appear in March, bringing a welcome pop of colour and flavour after a long winter of comfort food.
The Sunday market in Cambridge city centre is a good starting point for fresh produce, as is the local organic selection at Burwash Larder in Barton. Radmore Farm Shop on Chesterton Road is another favourite. The supermarkets can be a little trickier to rely on for seasonal British goods, so check the labels first. If you’re willing to work with what you’re given, try a seasonal veg box delivered to your door every week by The Cambridge Organic Food Company.
Bulk up your bounty with some seasonal treats requiring a little extra effort: March is the time to start foraging for wild garlic and nettles, often the first greens to emerge in spring. Use young garlic leaves in salads and to add flavour to soups and stews. Make the most of nettles’ purifying qualities (known also to help reduce blood pressure) and gather up the plentiful young plants to pack into healthy soups.
For something special on the side, don’t forget this season’s fresh fish: catch the last of the winter mussels, new stocks of plump scallops, and wild salmon. Ask your fishmonger what’s good, or track down a weekly fish van and stock up (Newnham, Saturday mornings; Chesterton Road, Wednesday 8am-3pm). If you’d rather not do the time at the markets, pay a visit to one of Cambridge’s restaurants paying close attention to the seasons. The finest and freshest ingredients take pride of place on the menus at Alimentum, The Hole in the Wall and Pint Shop, so you can guarantee a seasonal feast whatever the time of year.
For more top tips on eating and drinking in Cambridge, visit Heidi’s blog www.movingfoodie.com