July in south-central Germany: the sun is hot and high in the sky and eating with the season means fruit, fruit, fruit. The strawberries may be slowly coming to an end but in the orchards, plump stone fruits hang heavily from the trees, and at the farmers’ markets, stands are laden with fat, oozing plums and apricots and the cherries and berries are so ripe and plentiful that you can buy them on the cheap for making jam. On Saturdays, I return home from the marketplace weighed down by bags of sweet, juicy locally-grown fruits of every kind: if you’re enjoying the summer crops of berries and stone fruits as much as I am, then here are a few ideas for what to eat in July.
I love apricots (Aprikosen) in slow-cooked savoury dishes such as middle eastern tagines, stewed till they’re swollen with juices and almost falling apart. However, I think those dishes are best kept for the winter months, when I need something hearty to warm myself up with and can use dried apricots instead. In the summer, I think these velvety little fruits are best showed off in sweet breakfast treats or desserts such as:
I went right off gooseberries (Stachelbeeren) as a child when I fell into a very prickly bush of them. I grew to love them again, mainly thanks to my mum’s first class gooseberry crumble. Their sharp flavour works extremely well in both sweet and savoury dishes, from pies to sauces and coulis, and I very much like the sound of:
★ Nigel Slater’s classic gooseberry fool,
★ baked gooseberry, ginger and créme fraîche cheesecake, or
★ Jason Atherton’s cured mackerel and gooseberry salad.
The word “superfood” is often banded about in the context of blueberries (Heidelbeeren or Blaubeeren), chock full as they are of antioxidants that are said to lower your risk of heart disease. It’s a bonus, then, that they taste delicious, wonderful little explosions of sweetness for scattering on a salad or mixing with other ripe summer fruits and dollop of yoghurt or cream to create the perfect summer pudding, but I’m also rather keen to try:
★ blueberry and lemon cheesecake bars,
★ Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s blueberry clafoutis (and his blueberry, oat and walnut muffins lower down that page, too), and
★ Yotam Ottolenghi’s blueberry galette.
Zwetschgen are smooth, blueish-black apricot-shaped fruits with greeny-yellow flesh and a strong, acidic flavour, which makes them better suited for cooking than eating straight off the tree (though I’m quite partial to doing that myself). For a long time, I’d understood these were damsons, but they are in fact a subspecies of the damson. They’re for sale by the kilo at our local market and in such large quantities, would be the perfect purchase for jam-making. Other ideas for cooking with them include:
★ Delia Smith’s damson chutney spiced with cinnamon, allspice and cloves,
★ Diana Henry’s damson and blackberry Eton mess and
★ Sarah Raven’s damson vodka (otherwise known as sloe gin).
Often confused with damsons (and damson subspecies!), plums (Pflaumen) are larger, purpler and have smaller stones and a much milder, sweeter taste. They go just as well with savoury as sweet dishes though, so if you want to do something with them other than eat them raw and lick the sticky juice that’s dribbled down your arms in the process, then how about trying:
Also in season in July: blackberries (Brombeeren), broad beans (Dicke Bohnen) cherries (Kirschen), green beans (Bohnen), peas (Erbsen), radishes (Radieschen), raspberries (Himbeeren) and redcurrants (Johannisbeeren).