April

April, fair April, we never know what you will bring.

April hath put a spirit of youth in everything

William Shakespear
a beautiful spring day in April overlooking the coast and sea

Daylight now in abundance, and the landscape is in full awakening. Tradition has it that April is the month of showers, and to some extent that is true. It can be bright and sunny, then a heavy shower, sometimes of snow, and then back to sunshine again. The sun rising in the sky making all look bright, and the rains and new leaves all look fresh.

Notable dates in April

1st April – April Fools Day

4th April – Grand National

4th – 19th April – Edinburgh Science Festival

8th April – Super Full Moon

9th April – Maunday Thursday

10th April – Good Friday

12th April – Easter Sunday

13th April – Bank Holiday Monday

17th – 19th April – RHS Flower Show Cardiff

21st April – Queens Birthday

23rd April – St. Georges Day

24th April – New Moon

24th & 25th April – Marsden Cuckoo fair

25th & 26th April – Shakespear’s Birthday celebrations

29th April – The Boat Race

29th April – 4th May – Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival

April seasonal foods

What is seasonal in April.

If you would like a selection of Seasonal Organic produce, try Riverford veg, fruit and meat boxes

Greens & leaves: Cabbage, Purple sprouting broccoli, Sorrel, Spinach, Spring greens, Watercress, Lettuce.

Roots and other veg: Asparagus, Cauliflower, Celeriac, New potatoes, maincrop potato, Onion, Spring onion, Radish.

Meat: Beef, Chicken, Lamb, Spring lamb, Pork.

Fruits: Rhubarb, Stored apples.

Seafood: Cod, Crab, Halibut, Oyster, Salmon.

Exotics: Grapefruit, Pomegranate.

In nature

Whilst the resident birds may have been nesting and taking territory for some time, April may deliver the first new additions of the year. Migratory birds will also start to appear from the south, replacing those departed for the north.

Butterflies and moths can start to be seen, looking out for fresh new leaves to lay eggs upon to ensure the caterpillars get the very best and tastiest start to their life, however, a large number of these become a tasty treat for birds freshly hatched and fledged.

Fresh new growth abounds, and the difference between the start of the month and the end can be like the difference between summer and winter! Meadows become a riot of yellow Dandelions, hedgerows peppered with the bright colours and road verges gaining height be the day of Cow parsley reaching for the sun.

Fruit trees are in their glory, with apple and pear trees filling the morning with a heady scent and the hum of bees.

Wild Garlic carpets the damp places and provides a delicious smell when disturbed. Where places have an abundance it can make for a tasty forage providing a delicious salad leaf.

On the farm

Potatoes, peas, and beans being planted.

Fertilising grass production fields to boost yield for silage,

cereal crops sprayed with pesticides and top dressed with fertiliser.

Calving in full swing, with lambing ending. Calves tagged for identity purposes and registered.

Flowering currants with a flying bee

Things to do in April

In the April garden

Gardening hints

If you have an allotment, April can be the month where panic set in! If the previous months weather has been particularly foul you may not have the ground prepared. Fear not, as the ground may be too cold or damp for the things you should have done.

Notwithstanding this, it is time to crack on and hopefully, the lighter evenings will be your friend.

Finish the digging. Get the seed bed prepared and get sowing. All roots can be planted, and can Onions and potatoes. Broad beans for follow on crops, or just a tasty treat in June.

The garden may need a tidy. Deadhead any remaining daffodils, prune forsythia, admire Lilac and Laburn. Anxiously examine apples and pears to see if they have set.

Out and about

All four seasons in one day.

Yellow Gorse and Fields of oil seed rape by the Blue sea of Dorset

Recipe of the month.

Lentil and Veg Bake.

OK, April and Easter are usually associated with Roast Lamb. However, if Easter is early and winter has been unkind, then it may not be in season. We also associate spring with abundance, yet for the self-sufficient or the seasonal eater, this is the Hungry Gap.

So the reality is that in spring you may have once ate Mutton, with a few of the remaining stored potatoes and Mushy Peas – If you were in luck you may have remaining Kale, or the broccoli might have started to sprout.

So, a recipe that uses the few remaining veg that might be about, plus some tired store cupboard staples. If you do not have the veg below, don’t worry, add any veg you may have to hand.

This is a rustic recipe, so no need to worry too much about the measurements or the ingredients. The list below is a suggestion, you can substitute any of the vegetables depending on availability. Because it’s a bit rustic, can be good for the beginner. I would advise a good stock, though.

Ingredients

  • 200g Red lentils
  • A good glug of oil.
  • Large or 2 small onions
  • Leek
  • a couple of cloves of garlic
  • A large or two small carrot
  • Celeriac or parsnip if you can
  • Tin of chopped tomatoes
  • A litre of good stock, it’s worth the extra little cost for a good stock.
  • Herb of your choice. A bay leaf is nice, plus some Oregano – however, sage or thyme also work well.
  • A generous teaspoon of smoked paprika.
  • 1tsp Mustard of your choice, powdered is good.
  • 150g of Cheese. Mature Cheddar is good, however, you can use a mix. A strong tasty cheese goes further with flavour.
  • Salt and pepper

Equipment.

An ovenproof dish suitable to put the stuff in. A lasagne dish suitable for 4 is about ideal.

A largish saucepan

Preparation

Rinse the lentils and allow to drain.

Slice the onions and leeks. Chop the other veg, these work much better if the are slices smaller because that makes for a nicer texture, however, this is a rustic dish, so don’t panic over it.

Boil a kettle with enough water for the stock.

Turn on oven to warm. 190 electric, 180 fan. If using gas, you know your oven better than me.

Cooking

Put oil in a pan on moderate heat, add onions and/or leeks, stirring occasionally to prevent browning. Heat for 5 minutes. Add Carrot, celeriac and parsnip if using. heat for another 5 minutes, similarly stirring to prevent browning. Add garlic and stir, add mustard and paprika and stir (unless you are using prepared mustard, then add after the stock, below).

Now throw in everything else apart from the cheese! Add the tomatoes, stock (cubes or better still the fresh type) the lentils, any herbs you fancy using, a pinch of salt and a generous shake of pepper. If the stock was not readymade, top up with enough water from the kettle to cover the mixture.

Heat until boiling and cook at a moderate rate for 5 – 10 minutes. You will need to keep stirring, and be very wary of the lentils sticking to the bottom of the pan! They may need a good poke to keep them mobile.

Reduce heat to a gentle simmer for about 10 – 15 minutes. If the mixture starts to get quite stiff and dry, add a bit more liquid.

Stir in half the cheese.

Decant to the ovenproof dish. Smooth. sprinkle cheese on top.

Cook until the cheese looks an attractive colour.

Dark skies and bright sunshine of April Showers

Activities, things to see and do in April

With lengthening days arise more opportunities to get out and about. To see what is happening in nature and the countryside. There is also a lot more to see as the year really starts to get going.

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April in pictures