Membership

March

Though we enter Scotland’s ‘hungry gap’, the short sea kale season is underway – Scotland is home to the only grower of this unusual vegetable. Wild garlic, the clever cook’s free favourite, is easier to get hold of though.

March

Though we enter Scotland’s ‘hungry gap’, the short sea kale season is underway – Scotland is home to the only grower of this unusual vegetable.

Calendar Key

  • Best quality
  • Limited availability
  • Reduced quality

Fish & seafood

Cod Coley

An alternative to cod and haddock, also known as saithe. A long tapered body, with a slight blue tint, coley range from 500g to 6kg but are usually only available as fillets. Coley can be a good buy, but needs to be as fresh as possible. The flesh is often a dull off-white colour which lightens during cooking, and has a fine flavour.

Seafish

Haddock

A member of the cod family, haddock is not usually available beyond 3.5kg so is not good for steaks or suprêmes. The flesh has a slightly sweeter taste, making haddock the best whitefish for smoking. Finnan haddock originated in the Scottish fishing village of Findon, and Arbroath smokies are small whole haddock, gutted and headed, then dry salted and hot smoked.

Seafish

Lemon sole

Lemons have an oval body, more rounded than a Dover, with a lighter, yellowy-brown dark side. Sweet delicate flesh is ideal for any sole recipes, and works especially well with creamy white wine sauces. As well as being a great fish cooked on the bone, fillets are always popular, and are great for rolling around a filling (delice), then steaming or baking.

Seafish

Megrim Monkfish

An ugly fish with a huge head, accounting for half the fish’s weight. Usually only the tails are sold: once skinned, trimmed and the membrane removed, the tails yield some fantastic meat, with a firm, meaty texture and a taste similar to langoustine. In the 1970s monkfish was only fished commercially as a cheap scampi substitute! The liver is also highly prized, and is a delicacy in Japan where it determines the price of the fish.

Seafish

Mussels

Rope grown mussels are farmed and grown from the sprat of wild stock, and in Scotland have been granted Sustainable Status by the Marine Stewardship Council. Recommended over wild, they are sustainable and give a better product: free of grit as they don’t touch the sea bed, with thinner shells and more meat. Although mussels are available all year, production will be limited during an algae bloom (on average twice annually).

Jeremy Dixon

Sales and Marketing Director, Ochil Foods

Plaice

Unlike Dover sole, plaice is best eaten as fresh as possible as the flavour quickly fades. Whole fish are easily identified by distinctive orange spots, which also indicate freshness – the brighter the spots, the fresher the plaice. As pronounced a flavour as lemon sole, it takes sauces and other flavours very well, and is great for battering. Best avoided when in roe (around February to April), as the flesh is thin and watery.

Seafish

Ling Lobster

Lobsters are available all year, but it’s good to be aware of females with eggs – for obvious reasons, these are best left in the sea. Most lobsters moult in summer and hibernate in winter: as a result their meat-to-water ratio is normally highest in spring/early summer and autumn, which makes the higher per kilo prices at that time deceptive.

Jeremy Dixon

Sales and Marketing Director, Ochil Foods

Razor clams

There are several varieties of clam; all are round and stone-like except the razor clam [nicknamed spoots in Scotland], so called because it resembles a cut-throat razor. Amande, hardshell, Venus and razor clams are the most common varieties. Palourdes (or carpet shell) are considered the finest clams and command a much higher price.

Seafish

Hake

Surprisingly not more popular in the UK – a large proportion of the UK catch goes to the Spanish, Portuguese and Italians. A long, round, slender body is mainly grey and silver in colour: its shape makes it great for cutting into steaks or loin suprêmes. The flesh is quite soft, but firms up on cooking and has a good flavour.

Seafish

Langoustine

Creel-caught langoustines are fished for all year round, subject to the weather. Langoustines moult in May, when they can be more difficult to catch as they bury themselves underground. The ultimate langoustine will arrive live in your kitchen capable of drawing blood! However this is not easy to achieve as they are difficult to transport live. Many fishermen will chill langoustine before packing them, so they are lifeless but remain extremely fresh.

Jeremy Dixon

Sales and Marketing Director, Ochil Foods

Oysters (native)

Three main varieties are available in the UK – native, Pacific (or rock), and Portuguese. The native (available September to April) is considered the best, but takes twice as long to grow, making it more expensive. Pacifics are available year round. Oysters should feel heavy for their size and be kept with the round ‘cupped’ part of the shell facing downwards to retain the moisture.

Seafish

Oysters (Pacific)

Three main varieties are available in the UK – native, Pacific (or rock), and Portuguese. The native (available September to April) is considered the best, but takes twice as long to grow, making it more expensive. Pacifics are available year round. Oysters should feel heavy for their size and be kept with the round ‘cupped’ part of the shell facing downwards to retain the moisture.

Seafish

Witch

Vegetables

Beetroot

The most versatile of vegetables, beetroot has so many uses. It can be boiled; peeled and served cold in salads; grated raw and stir fried very quickly in walnut oil and flavoured with orange zest and juice; or grated and put into cakes with chocolate, to name but a few. " Fiona Burrell Principal and Founder of the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School " Probably Scotland’s most neglected and versatile vegetable is available almost all year. Baby beet is one of the first veg of the year – sweet, with tops like its cousin ruby chard, it needs no peeling. Different varieties have different sweetness: the glorious stick-of-rock chioggia, startlingly golden with its pink concentric circles, is not really sweet at all.

Patricia Stephen

Owner of Phantassie Organic Growers

Brussels sprouts

Finely shred the sprouts and stir fry with some bacon and garlic; add leftover ones to mashed potato for bubble and squeak, or make sprout bhajis by slicing and adding to a spicy batter before frying and serving with mint and yogurt dressing. Don’t put crosses in the base of sprouts before boiling, as they go soggy.

Fiona Burrell

Principal and Founder of the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School

Horseradish Kale

Once the peasant winter staple producing food for the farmer and his animals, kale is now widely available nearly all year round. Italian black kale (cavalo nero) comes first, Scots and Russian kale last and for longest. As well as steaming or braising, turn it into winter pesto or vitamin and mineral-rich crisps. The newest veg on the block is a brussels/kale cross variously called Brukale or FlowerSprouts. Small heads are less brassica-ish than brussels and more substantial than kale, though need very thorough washing.

Patricia Stephen 

Owner of Phantassie Organic Growers

Parsnips

When roasted, parsnips become sweet and caramelised, but they are also delicious if boiled and then pureed with a little butter and cream. Grate them with potato and cook as individual rosti or potato cakes. They work well in soup with a little cooking apple and can be used instead of carrots in a carrot cake recipe.

Fiona Burrell

Principal and Founder of the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School

Radish (winter) Broccoli (purple)

Purple sprouting broccoli can be cooked in many ways but it is always best to steam or parboil it first. It can then be added to stir fries with chicken or chorizo or finished off on a char grill. Serve it with slices of lightly fried garlic, toasted sesame seeds and a few drops of sesame oil.

Fiona Burrell

Principal and Founder of the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School

Cabbages

So many and so old fashioned, or a source of good food value? Spring greens love bacon, pyramid cabbages hug butter, winter cabbages sup up gravy, while hard cabbage is good at slow cooking and at being raw and crunchy. All are easily available, and even if the outer leaves are a little ragged or tired, their heart will be in the right place.

Patricia Stephen 

Owner of Phantassie Organic Growers

Celeriac Endive Jerusalem artichoke

These nutty, knobbly little tubers are wonderful in soup but they pair well with fish and game, either roasted or puréed. They can be sliced and put into a dish with sliced potatoes, sweated leeks and garlic, covered with cream and grated cheese and cooked until soft. Serve with roast lamb.

Fiona Burrell

Principal and Founder of the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School

Leeks

Leeks are very versatile, and team well with other ingredients such as smoked bacon and mature Scottish cheddar cheese in a quiche. They can be used instead of onions in a chicken and ham pie, put into soup with potatoes, cooked quickly with fish and shellfish or puréed to go into a leek and cheese soufflé.

Fiona Burrell

Principal and Founder of the Edinburgh New Town Cookery School

Onions Salsify Sea kale Spring greens Winter salad (e.g. chicory & lambs lettuce)

Scotland grows all sorts of lettuces for ten months of the year, as well as little spinach, rocket, edible flowers and all those other glories that make up the modern salad bag. In winter, nature provides us with purslane, lambs lettuce, chicories, endives, land cress and ‘spring’ onions to see us through to spring. Just mix and match as the seasons pass.

Patricia Stephen 

Owner of Phantassie Organic Growers

Winter squash

Amazing varieties from tennis ball-sized rolet gems to massive Crown Princes grow well in Scotland. They give a lot of vegetable bang for your buck: the dense flesh varies from honeyed to chestnutty, and the seeds can be roasted. They prefer being stored at room temperature. So far butternuts need southern warmth, but Scottish growers are trialling varieties constantly.

Patricia Stephen 

Owner of Phantassie Organic Growers

Meat & game

Roe deer doe

A lowland deer, found throughout the British Isles in large numbers. They are quite small, ranging from 15 - 35kg. Though there are also seasons around roe deer, like red deer the bucks can be shot year round to protect forestry and farming interests. Roe deer are extremely tender and flavoursome, often preferred by chefs to red deer: on the flip side they are much smaller and slightly more expensive.

Jeremy Dixon

Sales and Marketing Director, Ochil Foods

Herbs & wild food

Chickweed Chives Common sorrel

Best in June, but available in many months where grass is cut, wild sorrel leaves have a fresh tang that will quickly flavour soup or sauces. Add them late to the cooking or use the youngest and most tender leaves in salads – they look like a small, smooth-leaved dock, and are in the same family as wood sorrel. The plant is common and will thrive on harvesting.

Fiona Martynoga

Forager and Writer

Dandelion Garlic mustard

Its other name, Jack-by-the-hedge, describes the habitat of this biennial very well. The new growth of pale, heart-shaped, slightly crinkly leaves appears around October and can be harvested from then until the spring. Take only a few small leaves as they are pungent. Use in sauces or salads.

Fiona Martynoga

Forager and Writer

Mint Reedmace Sweet cicely Wild garlic or ramsons

Prolific in certain wet woods and found in some city parks, ramsons’ broad green leaves and large heads of starry white flowers smell strongly of garlic. Use the young leaves and flowers, not the bulbs. Best from March – May, either raw as salad or pesto, or added late to a cooking process to preserve the flavour.

Fiona Martynoga

Forager and Writer