May is a forward-looking month and cooks need to be particularly alert to take full advantage of the first summer vegetables as they come on the market. These can make a dramatic difference to our menus. The young fresh flavours make them suitable for serving as a first course and for adding to salads. We can expect broad beans, young beetroot and bunched carrots, soon followed by courgettes, French beans and sugar peas. May brings good avocados, the start of the summer supply of globe artichokes from Brittany and our own asparagus season. As spring gets under way mint should be sprouting in the garden for the new season’s lamb. Herrings are at their best and along with them come mackerel, a real sea fish with a strong flavour. Towards the end of the month the season of summer fruit starts, with imported apricots and the early gooseberries which are green and hard, but the ones for cooking generally and preserving. Small pineapples are also plentiful and inexpensive to serve.