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Food in Season: February
Food in Season – February

WLR's Food Information Executive, Laurence Beeken highlights what foods are in season to give you new ideas to include in your diet with recipes for Cauliflower, Rhubarb, Mussels and Chard.

Food in Season: February

By WLR's Food Information Executive, Laurence Beeken

WLR’s Laurence Beeken highlights what foods are in season to give you new ideas to include in your diet with recipes for Cauliflower, Chard, Mussels and Rhubarb.

Cauliflower

A member of the brassica family which includes cabbage, brussels sprouts and broccoli, the white cauliflower is becoming increasingly available in orange, green or even purple varieties.

It is typically the flowering head or ‘curd’ of the cauliflower which is eaten, although all parts are edible, especially the younger leaves which are used as a green vegetable.

Best steamed to retain its flavour and nutrients, cauliflower is one of the so called super foods: low in fat, high in fibre and containing several phytochemicals reported to be beneficial to heath. In addition, cauliflower containing glucosinolates, which trigger your body’s own natural antioxidant systems and improving the liver’s detoxifying performance.

Cauliflower will provide you with plenty of Vitamin B6 and folate and over 70% of the recommended adult intake of Vitamin C per 100g.  At a tiny 31 calories per 100g serving you know it makes sense to include this tasty and nutritious vegetable in your diet, and those of you following a low carb intake can substitute it for potatoes in many dishes.

Preparation

Using a sharp knife slice through the base of the cauliflower to remove the older leaves and cut away the core. Cut or break into evenly sized florets and rinse thoroughly under cold water.

Storage

Whilst it is tastiest eaten as soon as possible whole cauliflower will keep for several days if stored in a cool dark place or placed in a plastic bag stem side up in the bottom of the fridge. Once cut into florets they are best eaten within a day, although you can blanch or freeze excess on the same day and why not try making your own pickle?

Nutrition data per 100g
Calories (kcal) 31.1
Protein (g) 3.3
Carbohydrate (g) 2.7
Sugars (g) 2.2
Fat (g) 0.8
Saturates (g) 0.2
Fibre (g) 1.6
Sodium (g) 0.0
Fruit and Veg 1.3
Cauliflower Recipes:

 

Rhubarb

Whilst most people regard Rhubarb as a fruit, it is actually classified as a vegetable (and a tart one at that) as it is the thick juicy leaf stalks of this herbaceous perennial which are used in various recipes from pies to pickles.  Just remember that the leaves should be discarded as they contain a chemical called oxalic acid, which while present in small amounts in many plants, is poisonous in the concentrations found in the foliage.

Like cranberries most people do find rhubarb needs sweetness to make it more palatable. In some recipes honey, orange or apple juice can be used to sweeten as an alternative to sugar, as can adding a sweeter fruit such as strawberries.

At only 21 calories per 100g you gain a decent amount of Vitamins A & C, moderate amounts of dietary fibre and if that’s not enough to tempt you, eating it will also help keep you regular! Just be careful not to over indulge or it may have a laxative effect.

Preparation

Once you have removed the leaves and stem base, simply wash and trim the ends before cutting into chunks as required.  The most common method of cooking is to stew the pieces with a little sweetener, or to make jam by adding a secondary flavour, after stewing, such as ginger.

Storage

Kept in a plastic bag you can store rhubarb in the bottom of the fridge for a week. It also freezes well without needing to be sweetened first. Stew and then freeze or simply wash and freeze raw in airtight bags for up to a year.

Nutrition data per 100g

Rhubarb, raw, average

Calories (kcal) 21.0
Protein (g) 0.9
Carbohydrate (g) 4.5
Sugars (g) 1.1 
Fat (g) 0.2
Saturates (g) 0.1
Fibre (g) 1.8
Sodium (g) 0.04
Fruit and Veg 1.3
Rhubarb Recipes:

 

Mussels

Research published by the Marine Conservation Society suggests that mussels are one of the most environmentally friendly types of shellfish available as there is no inflated cost and currently they are in abundance.

Shop around when buying mussels and select those with tightly closed shells, avoiding any that are broken. Plump, juicy flesh is what you are looking for once they are cooked and colour is not indicative of quality as orange flesh tells you the mussel is female, while a whiter shade suggests a male.

Preparation

Carefully place the mussels into a bowl or sinkful of cold water for an hour or two so they will disgorge their sand and lose a bit of their saltiness. Discard any that stay open when tapped or which feel lighter in weight than the rest. Pull away the mass of fibres, known as the beard, and give them a good scrub, to remove any barnacles, slime and debris.  A final rinse through in a colander should ensure a sand-free meal.

Cooking

Mussels need very little cooking. Place them in the bottom of a large, heavy-based pan with a small amount of liquid and turn up the heat to steam them. As soon as the shells start gaping open, you know they are ready. Don't overcook them or you'll end up with rubbery flesh. Discard any that fail to open fully.
Mussels are delicious with a wide array of flavours. Steaming them in vermouth or white wine - along with shallots, garlic and a few herbs - is traditional in some European countries, or try them with a combination of South-east Asian flavourings such as coconut, ginger, lemongrass and chilli. The cooking liquid is half the joy of eating mussels, so have plenty of crusty bread on stand-by for soaking up.

Storage

Unless you know how fresh they are, always eat mussels on the same day you buy them. Store for 24 hours at the most in the bottom of a refrigerator.

Nutrition data per 100g

Mussels, Raw, Average, weighed in Shell

Calories (kcal) 23.4
Protein (g) 3.4
Carbohydrate (g) 1.0
Sugars (g) Trace
Fat (g) 0.7
Saturates (g) 0.1
Fibre (g) 0.0
Sodium (g) 0.1
Fruit and Veg 0.155
Mussels Recipes:

 

Chard

Also known as Swiss Chard, Spinach Beet or Perpetual Spinach, chard is a leafy vegetable, related to the beetroot, of which only the leaves and leaf stems are eaten.

Popular as both a vegetable and a bright border plant, chard can be harvested while the leaves are young and tender and used raw in salads or after maturity when the larger and tougher foliage and stems will need some degree of cooking, usually sauteing in a broth. Chard has a very short shelf life and should be eaten as quickly as possible following picking

Chard is very high in vitamin K, A, & C with a good concentration of E, B vitamins and minerals including potassium and iron. Many health claims exist including anti carcinogenic properties, and interestingly a good level of phytonutrients may actually help metabolism by increasing protein synthesis in the muscles.

Preparation

Wash young leaves for use in salads or wash and trim older leaves to remove any tough or discoloured parts.  During February you are more likely to buy the leaves in the mature state.

Mature chard with thick stems is easier to treat as two separate vegetables: the leaves when chopped serve as an excellent substitute for winter greens or spinach, while the stems, which will need longer cooking, make an excellent vegetable in their own right, similar in texture to boiled celery (although by far a different taste). Simply cut off the stems and chop them. Then saute with garlic and butter until soft. Chop the leaves and add them for the last 2 minute. Finish with a little fresh, grated nutmeg.

Storage

If you are planning to store fresh chard in the refrigerator then do not wash it beforehand as the moisture will wilt the leaves.  Keep it either loose or in a paper bag in the bottom of the fridge for 2-3 days..

Nutrition data per 100g

Chard, raw, average

Calories (kcal) 19.0
Protein (g) 1.4
Carbohydrate (g)  3.32
Sugars (g) .85
Fat (g) 0.2
Saturates (g) 0.02
Fibre (g) 0.8
Sodium (g) 0
Fruit and Veg 0.155
Chard Recipes:

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