Summer Salads

There are many benefits to summer. The sun is shining, well sometimes, the evenings are longer and there’s lots of fresh, local produce around, which is at its best when in season, writes Tracy Hargreaves

We do get used to having produce available pretty much all year round, as supermarkets import from all around the world. But there really is no substitute for eating fresh produce that’s local to your doorstep and in summer there’s so much of it around, not only are you supporting your economy but eating local just tastes best.

Tomatoes are so sweet when freshly picked and add colour to any salad or add to a skewer with peppers, mushrooms, chicken and red onion for the barbecue. For something a bit different mix classic, cherry and baby plum tomatoes with sliced avocado and crispy bacon, dressed with a wholegrain mustard, cider vinegar and olive oil dressing. Yum!

Tomatoes also have several health benefits. They’re full of vitamins, as well as potassium and calcium and all tomatoes contain lycopene which is an antioxidant. With several tomato growers in Lancashire, many of which are family businesses based around the Hesketh Bank, Tarleton and Southport areas, we’re not stuck for choice for varieties with Sweet Magic and Piccolo being popular with customers.

Gore Hall Farm in Banks, is just one of the farms in the region that grows lettuce – well five different varieties of lettuce to be exact, from iceberg to little gem, flat lettuce to living lettuce, plus a celery crop. Lettuce is usually associated with the traditional summer salad and whilst some may see it as being a bit bland, it is actually incredibly good for you. Lettuce leaves are high in fibre and are great for skin and hair. Did you know that drinking lettuce juice stimulates hair growth? It also contains vitamin K, potassium and can help people struggling to sleep.

There is so much more to lettuce, use as a wrap and add some tangy meat balls inside, mix with different varieties of lettuce with a dressing and add chicken, bacon and croutons for a tasty caeser salad or you can roast it, yes that’s right, roast or chargrill. You can even add to casseroles.

The Duerden brothers in Great Eccleston grow watercress and beansprouts. Having invested in modern machinery from Tokyo they are able to provide a fast, hygienic service. From harvest to loading ready for delivery takes only four hours. Their products really couldn’t be any fresher. Beansprouts have a high water content so don’t keep for very long. Steam or stir-fry them, or add to mixed salads and sandwiches. They are low in calories so great for keeping the weight off.

I love watercress. It can be used to make a great peppery soup, which can be eaten hot or cold, or added to other leaves to give texture and taste. The health benefits of watercress include boosting immunity, cancer prevention, and thyroid support, so it’s a great all-rounder.

Beetroot is a fabulous addition to any salad, simply for its colour alone. It is grown by Worthington Farm in Tarleton and head of the family Peter Ascroft grows four different variations, all of which are available from August through to May. Red beetroot is more widely eaten in winter but golden beetroot has risen in popularity. It has a sweet and earthy taste and also has practical benefits in cooking because unlike its red counterpart, its juices don’t stain or run into other elements of dishes. This is a vegetable that remains relatively new and interesting in the British food market. Candy beetroot is a niche product with distinct and nuanced flavours, candy beet are highly sought after by those chefs or contentious cooks at home who wish to create dishes with a difference and finally white beetroot is a specialist variety with a sweet, earthy taste. Like the golden and candy varieties, it won’t stain other ingredients when cooked together.

Mix with a carrot, olive oil, sesame oil and lemon juice for a perfect summer salad for parties or roast it and add to mixed leaves with goat’s cheese. Both of which are delicious.

So, next time you are shopping in the supermarket and looking for a summer salad, think about how much produce we grow locally in Lancashire, how versatile you can be and try something different, the many health benefits and of course, how fresh it will be and your salad won’t be the same again.

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