England is a country of market gardens, and now that summer has arrived roadside stalls, particularly in fertile areas such as the Vale of Evesham, Kent , and East Anglia, offer a profusion of fine fruits and home-grown vegetables.
Asparagus, that perennial English favorite, heralds the start of the season, and throughout the coming months other ''stars'' make their brief but much-appreciated appearances.
There are strawberries (the favorite at Wimbledon), tiny broad beans, runner and French beans, raspberries, black and red currants, sweet and sour cherries, tiny garden peas, courgettes (elsewhere known as zucchini), and tart rhubarb.
There are luscious blackberries, plums, pears, damsons, gooseberries, and Cox's Orange Pippin, Bramley, and other fine English apples.
People who live in such areas, as well as those from farther afield, enjoy such produce fresh - if not grown in their own garden or allotment then purchased from roadside stalls or gathered from farms that allow customers to do the picking.
This seasonal glut of fruits and vegetables is then traditionally preserved in fruit jams and piquant chutneys for enjoyment all year round.
Londoners, armed with plastic buckets and picnic lunches, come by car or coach to centers such as Tiptree; they return in the evening, stomachs filled to bursting, for it is impossible not to eat as much as one picks.
And of course they bring quantities of strawberries, raspberries, black and red currants, cherries, and plums to make enough jam to last the year.
Chutneys, those favorite English relishes which originated in India, are also made at this time of year. There are any number of combinations of vegetables and fruits, generally cooked together and sieved to a pulp, then preserved in vinegar, salt, and seasonings.
Chutneys are usually both sharp and fruity in flavor, and they are eaten with farmhouse cheese, bread, and cold meats or as an addition to a spicy Madras curry.
Homemade jams and chutneys are often sold here at village hall stalls or church markets, the bottles labeled and dated carefully by hand. It is more fun, though, to make your own with the profusion of summer fruits and vegetables that are now coming into season. Strawberry Jam 1.35 kilograms/3 pounds fresh, firm strawberries Juice of 1 lemon 1.35 kilograms/3 pounds granulated sugar
Hull strawberries. Place in large heavy-bottomed pan with lemon juice and heat gently for 5 to 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, put sugar into ovenproof dish and gently warm in low oven for 10 to 15 minutes.
Add warmed sugar to strawberries and stir continuously until sugar dissolves. Bring mixture slowly to the boil; cook briskly until setting point is reached. A drop on a cold saucer will solidify in one minute and have a wrinkled skin.
Be careful not to overboil, as the fruit will lose its bright color. Skim and set aside to cool 20 minutes, or until a skin starts to form on the surface. Pour into hot sterilized jars and seal. Makes about 2.5 kg/5 pounds. Apple and Tomato Chutney 225 grams/8 ounces/1 1/3 cups raisins 450 grams/1 pound tomatoes, peeled and chopped 6 small onions, peeled and chopped 2 green peppers, cored and chopped 900 grams/2 pounds eating apples, peeled 450 grams/1 pound brown sugar 150 milliliters/1/4 pint/ 2/3 cup cider vinegar 3 teaspoons salt 1 teaspoon mixed spice
Soak raisins in warm water for 30 minutes or so to plump them up. Place all ingredients in a large heavy-based saucepan and simmer 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally. Ladle into sterilized pots or jars, seal, and leave to mature at least 1 month.