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Guide to seasonal food

Gardener picking fennel from the vegetable garden at Speke Hall, Liverpool
Gardener picking fennel from the vegetable garden at Speke Hall, Liverpool | © National Trust Images/Arnhel de Serra

Growing your own fruit and vegetables or even just buying seasonal food is a great way to help the environment. It reduces food miles and the need for plastic packaging, both of which contribute to climate change. From January to December discover what to harvest, plant and buy each month with our guide to seasonal food.

January

Get the New Year off to a good start by tucking into the best fresh veg available in gardens, allotments and shops. Despite the cold weather, tasty veg such as parsnips, swedes and leeks should be at their best. Meanwhile nutritious microgreens, the first leaves of herbs and salad vegetables, can be grown on windowsills indoors.

Vegetables to harvest or buy

  • Brussels sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Parsnips
  • Savoy cabbage
  • Swedes

February

February can feel like winter has gone on too long – cheer yourself up with hearty, warming stews made from tasty root veg. Or, if you grow your own veg, start to prepare for spring by planning your veg patch and ordering your seeds.

Vegetables to harvest or buy

  • Brussel sprouts
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Parsnips
  • Purple sprouting broccoli
  • Savoy cabbage

March

Spring is on the way so celebrate with delicious purple-sprouting broccoli. At the end of the month, in the allotment or veg patch, you can start to sow the hardiest veg including spinach, lettuce and carrots.

Vegetables to harvest or buy

  • Cauliflower
  • Forced rhubarb
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Purple sprouting broccoli
  • Savoy cabbage

Vegetables to sow and plant

  • Broad beans
  • Cabbages
  • Early carrots
  • Early potatoes
  • Lettuce
  • Onions
  • Spinach

Vegetables to sow indoors / in greenhouses

  • Aubergines
  • Chillies
  • Peppers
  • Tomatoes

April

The ultimate seasonal treat for April is asparagus. Enjoy it while you can as the season for British crops only lasts about 6 weeks. The ground should be warm now for sowing all sorts of hardy veg outside and you can start tender crops off indoors.

Vegetables to harvest or buy

  • Asparagus
  • Rhubarb
  • Purple sprouting broccoli
  • Spring cabbage
  • Spring onions

Vegetables to sow or plant outside

  • Beetroot
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Kohl rabi
  • Lettuce
  • Leeks
  • Onions
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Rocket
  • Spinach
  • Spring onions
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnips

Vegetables to sow indoors / in greenhouses

  • Aubergines
  • Chillies
  • Cucumbers
  • Peppers
  • Pumpkins
  • Squashes
Freshly picked produce including rhubarb and chives in a wheelbarrow in the Kitchen Garden at Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk.
Freshly picked produce in the Kitchen Garden at Felbrigg Hall, Norfolk. | © National Trust Images/Fisheye Images

May

Now is the time to enjoy your very first delicate salads and sweet spring cabbage. The reliably warmer weather towards the end of this month makes it a good time to move tender plants like tomatoes and cucumbers, which were started indoors, out into the garden or allotment.

Vegetables to harvest and buy

  • Asparagus
  • Lettuces
  • Radishes
  • Rhubarb
  • Spinach
  • Spring cabbages
  • Spring onions

Vegetables to sow or plant outside

  • Cabbages
  • Cauliflower
  • Courgettes
  • Cucumber
  • French beans
  • Runner beans
  • Parsley
  • Pumpkins
  • Squash
  • Sweetcorn
  • Tomatoes

June

Spring-sown veg crops are finally ready to harvest, as are some soft fruit. This is the month to eat locally grown strawberries, which have been ripened outside in the summer sunshine.

Fruit and vegetables to harvest or buy

  • Baby carrots
  • Broad beans
  • Chard
  • Courgettes and summer squash
  • Currants
  • Gooseberries
  • Lettuce
  • Parsley
  • Radish
  • Rocket
  • Spinach
  • Spring cabbage
  • Spring onions
  • Strawberries

Vegetables to sow and plant

  • Courgettes
  • Cucumbers
  • French beans
  • Lettuce

July

Summer is fully under way and allotments and growing spaces are brimming with salad leaves, vegetables and berries. It’s the best time for new potatoes and a wealth of other seasonal foods.

Fruit and vegetables to harvest or buy

  • Beetroot
  • Blueberries
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cherries
  • Courgettes and summer squash
  • Cucumbers
  • Currants
  • Fennel
  • French beans
  • Gooseberries
  • Lettuce and other salad leaves
  • Loganberries
  • New potatoes
  • Peas and mangetout
  • Radish
  • Raspberries
  • Runner beans
  • Spinach
  • Spring onions
  • Shallots
  • Tayberries
  • Tomatoes

Vegetables to sow and plant

  • Fennel
  • Kohl Rabi
  • Pak choi
  • Parsley
  • Rocket

August

Heat-loving crops like tomatoes, cucumbers and chillies are in their prime now. Even aubergines and peppers, which are imported to the UK all year round, can be found growing in British greenhouses and veg gardens this month.

Fruit and vegetables to harvest or buy

  • Aubergines
  • Beetroot
  • Blackberries
  • Bluberries
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Chard
  • Courgettes and summer squash
  • Cucumbers
  • Fennel
  • French beans
  • Lettuce and other salad leaves
  • Peas and mangetout
  • Peppers and chilies
  • Plums
  • Potatoes
  • Raspberries
  • Runner beans
  • Spring onions
  • Sweetcorn
  • Tomatoes

Vegetables to sow and plant

  • Lettuce
  • Pak choi
  • Parsley
  • Rocket
  • Spinach
The Hall decorated for harvest with apples and squash on a table at Felbrigg Hall, Gardens and Estate, Norfolk
Harvest produce at Felbrigg Hall, Gardens and Estate, Norfolk | © National Trust Images/Rob Coleman

September

September is probably the most abundant month for British grown produce. Summer crops, such as salads, tomatoes, courgettes, cucumbers and runner beans are still highly productive. Meanwhile autumn crops such as apples, pears, squash and leeks are nearly ready for harvesting.

Fruit or vegetables to harvest or buy

  • Apples
  • Autumn-fruiting raspberries
  • Beetroot
  • Bluberries
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Celery
  • Chard
  • Courgettes and summer squash
  • Cucumbers
  • Fennel
  • Figs
  • French beans
  • Lettuce and other salad leaves
  • Pears
  • Peppers and chillies
  • Plums and damsons
  • Potatoes
  • Runner beans
  • Spinach
  • Sweetcorn
  • Shallots, onion and garlic
  • Tomatoes

October

As the nights draw in and the weather gets colder, we all enjoy tucking into warming dishes of food. Hearty stews, bakes and soups can all be made from the seasonal fruit and veg that you can harvest or buy at this time of year.

Fruit and vegetables to harvest or buy

  • Apples
  • Autumn-fruiting raspberries
  • Beetroot
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Celeriac
  • Celery
  • Chard
  • Chillies
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Kale
  • Kohl rabi
  • Leeks
  • Marrow
  • Onions and shallots
  • Pak choi
  • Parsnips
  • Pears
  • Potatoes (maincrop)
  • Quince
  • Rocket
  • Spinach
  • Swede and turnip
  • Winter squash and pumpkins

November

Tasty and nutritious root vegetables are abundant in November and make the perfect ingredients for recipes of all kinds. This is a good month to sow broad beans outside for earlier crops next year.

Fruit and vegetables to harvest or buy

  • Apples
  • Carrots
  • Cabbages
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Parsnips
  • Pears
  • Potatoes

Fruit and vegetables to sow and plant

  • Broad beans
  • Fruit bushes and trees

December

Whether you want to cook an extravagant Christmas feast with all the trimmings or a comforting bowl of soup to warm up after a bracing winter walk, there are still lots of fresh ingredients you can harvest from the garden or buy locally.

Fruit and veg to harvest and buy

  • Brussel sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower
  • Kale
  • Leeks
  • Potatoes
  • Savoy cabbage
Volunteers busy in the garden at Allan Bank and Grasmere, Cumbria

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