Food in Season – February

This is the season for savouring the mellow tastes of early winter in soups and desserts.

Leeks, potatoes, parsnips, carrots, swedes and turnips can all be used to make economical, nutritious and satisfying soups

And what is nicer than a baked apple, or a blackberry & apple crumble?

Seasonality

On the game front, there are goods supplies of rabbit, venison and pigeon for sale but the pheasant and hare season has now come to an end.

There are seasons for fish as well and flat fish, hake and monkfish are in plentiful supply – and some haddock still, though these take off to spawn in March & April. There may also be a few crabs and a few lobsters if inshore fishing goes well.

Winter vegetables are available – though frosts may cause problems. David Mellanby attends Farmers’ Markets south of the Tyne and should have a good supply of roots such as leeks, parsnips, beetroot, swede and cabbage and sprouts, which should go through to end of March.

Lamb & Mutton

The first lambs will already have been born on some hill farms. It is their busiest time of year, looking after the ewes and preparing the buildings and hiring extra help for lambing which is mainly in late March and April up in the North East. 
‘Spring lamb’ is lamb that is born in the spring of the year in which it is sold – usually about 5 months old – and although there may be some ready in late summer we usually have to wait until September for the first of the new season’s lamb to be on sale at farmers markets in the North East of England. Meanwhile – you may be lucky enough to find some mutton:

What is mutton? Mutton is the meat from sheep that are at least two years of age. The meat is fatter than lamb and darker red. It’s taste will depend on the breed and feed, it is akin to lamb, with the richer flavour of its maturity. These days mutton tends to be from a breeding ewe that has reached the end of its productive life, about 5 years. For more information visit http://www.muttonrenaissance.org.uk

Some sheep terminology:
Lamb – a sheep in its first year
Hogget – a two year old sheep
Wether – a castrated male sheep
Gimmer – a Northern term for a young female sheep, usually before her first lamb