It’s greens o’clock, and what a long time coming it has been. What a welcome sight these young, fresh, green vegetables and herbs bring to the table. It’s also a great time to get out into the wild and try foraging – but, if you are going to do so, make sure you know your stuff.
Be sure to get the permission from the landowner and, if you’re new to foraging, take someone with you who knows what you can and cannot take. Better still, why not sign up to a hands-on foraging course? Nettles and wild garlic are some of the easiest to identify but, as with any wild food, if you’re not sure, leave it.
BBC Good Food’s Miriam Nice has teamed up with Emma Crawforth of Gardeners’ World to help you grow, cook and eat the best of the season.
Purple sprouting broccoli
Most vegetable plots will be looking quite empty now, as the winter veg is used up and seedlings are too young to be planted outside. Purple sprouting broccoli, however, is at its best and needs to be picked before the weather warms up. There are purple and white types, but the purple is easiest to grow.
Harvest the flower buds, snapping off around 10cm of the length with your fingers. This will allow more side shoots to grow for harvesting later on. The crop takes a long time to mature, so it’s also time to sow the seeds for next year’s harvest! Emma
Try using it in this charred broccoli & cheat’s romesco toast.
Or see our purple sprouting broccoli recipes.
This woody, fragrant herb can be used in place of cocktail sticks, drink stirrers and skewers, as I’ve done below. As well as being compostable, rosemary imparts wonderful flavour to anything with which it comes in contact.
Although rosemary can be harvested all year round, the new shoots that are produced in spring and summer are best. Picking these shoots keeps the plant compact and bushy. Emma
Use up this herb in our lamb & rosemary koftas.
Forced chicory is a real treat. Dig up the plants in autumn, cut back the foliage and root tips, then store under cover in moist sand. Plant a root in compost and keep it at 10C, while watering and excluding all light. Soon, the delicious, tender, blanched shoot will emerge. Emma
Sliced chicory leaves add a hint of complex bitterness to dressed salads, but why not try something a little different? This clever use of chicory, in our chicory collins, makes a super pre-dinner cocktail.
Find more unique ideas with our chicory recipes.
If you can find or grow it, hamburg parsley is worth seeking out. It’s a sweet, dense root vegetable like a parsnip, but has a delicate, buttery flavour – almost like it’s trying to be a sweet potato.
Grow this little-known veg in a similar way to parsnips, sowing in a sunny site in late spring and watering if the weather’s very dry. Harvest the roots by lifting them with a fork, or pick the parsley-like leaves – they’re hardier than standard herb parsley. Emma
Hamburg parsley orecchiette
Peel and chop 1 large or 2 small hamburg parsley roots into small chunks, then boil in salted water for 10 mins. Drain, then fry in a large non-stick pan in 15g butter and 1 tsp olive oil until golden. Meanwhile, cook 150g orecchiette pasta following pack instructions, then drain. Add the cooked pasta to the hamburg parsley, toss to combine and season with plenty of black pepper and a little salt. Spread 4 tbsp crème fraîche over two plates and create a large well in the centre of each using a spoon. Dot over 1 chopped preserved lemon and top with the pasta mixture. Garnish with few parsley leaves, 1 tsp lumpfish roe and ½ tsp poppy seeds. Serves 2.
Spring onion is such a versatile ingredient, particularly at this time of year when the herb garden isn’t quite in full swing yet. Slice up the white and green parts separately and scatter the finely sliced green tops over the finished dish in place of herbs. They’re also brilliant whole as a vegetable in their own right, as with our tofu recipe, below.
Leave a few centimetres of the root end of the spring onion intact and set it in a small glass of water. Watch it grow back, giving you a whole new spring onion for free in a few weeks.
Try our recipe for spring onions & teriyaki tofu.
See more inspiration with our spring onion recipes.
Arm yourself with some thick gloves and these top tips from food writer and forager Adele Nozedar, of Breacon Beacons Foraging:
“The best time to eat nettles, many say, is in spring, when fresh growth is peeking out of the otherwise bare soil. Flowering stinging nettles can be eaten, but they are tough and unpalatable, except for the tassels of tiny seeds. When cooked fast over fire (when camping for instance), these have a lovely, nutty taste and add both flavour and crunch to, say, a simple pasta dish. Otherwise, dead nettles, which belong to the same family as mint, are edible – use the young tops as you would any other veg (stir-fries, soups, salads, etc). The flowers of all three types (purple, yellow and white), if you get to them before the bees, may give you a nice hit of nectar.”
Once cooked, nettles have a delicate, spinach-like flavour. Try them in this simple nettle soup recipe.
For more ideas, don’t miss our nettle recipes.
Take a small sharp knife or kitchen scissors and cut out any tough central stems of the leaves. Don’t throw them away – use them in stocks or chop up small and use in place of celery in sofrito (a base for soups and stews).
These spring greens with lemon dressing makes the most of spring greens and will add some much-needed freshness to a deep dish of cosy comfort food.
Find extra ideas in this collection of spring greens recipes.
Also known as ramsons, wild garlic comes into season in late March-April and is one of the best things to make a flavoured butter or a pesto with. For a wild garlic pesto that’s the very essence of spring, simply blitz wild garlic with olive oil and stir in a heap of finely grated parmesan, then drizzle it on everything.
Try our recipe for garlic butter, which makes a delicious spread for picnic flatbreads.
For more ideas, see our wild garlic recipe collection.
Garden tasks for March
- Keep sowing vegetable seeds, starting brassicas, leeks, lettuce, peas and parsnips outdoors in mild conditions, and beetroot, carrots, celery, peppers and tomatoes under cover.
- Plant out early potatoes and rhubarb.
- Hoe off young weed seedlings in dry weather.
- Remove dead, damaged and diseased leaves and old runners from strawberry plants, and order and plant new runners.
- Continue adding well-rotted organic mulches to the soil – be sure to do this around both fruit and veg plants.
- Use cloches to protect young plants from the worst of the season’s weather
Enjoyed these recipes? See more inspiration…
Which vegetables will you be using this March? Leave a comment below…