What's in Season - February

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February is a drag, itís the tail end of winter, spring and lighter nights are around the corner and patience is wearing thin. It is a month that can easily deceive, give the gardener a false sense of hope after a few dry and mild days and punish our eagerness to sew seeds with deep frosts, icy winds and driving rain. But mild days there are and these should be taken advantage of, there is ground to be prepared for onions, garlic and potatoes amongst others and fruit trees and bushes will be ready for pruning.

February is also a good time for stocktaking your surplus seeds from the previous year and making a plan for sewing what and when. Towards the end of the month there are plenty of vegetables and herbs, which can be sewn under glass, chillies should be sewn now to accommodate their long growing season as well as tomatoes and leeks. For the cook it is indeed a lean month, a time for using foods preserved from last seasons glut. I have jars of beautifully speckled borlotti beans, deep red dried chillies, bottled plum tomatoes, frozen greens and dried herbs to call upon to help spice up a dull shopping basket.

In terms of fruit forced rhubarb is as good as it gets for England, we have to look to warmer climes for our fruit fix and for me this is the best time for blood oranges with their great flavour and wonderful rich colour. There is little to get excited about with vegetables either, chicory and endive are at their best as are spring greens, sprouts, cabbages and Jerusalem artichokes. From the sea there are still good supplies of rock oysters, cockles and crabs.

Kale and Broccoli