Those of us who grow something, anything, in our allotments, gardens, farms and window boxes will have spotted the sap rising. As will anyone who has taken a look at the produce in their local farmers' markets and farm shops. Tiny salad leaves no bigger than a teaspoon, locally grown asparagus, emerald green garlic leaves and wildly curling pea shoots are there as evidence. Those who shop solely in the supermarkets will have to take our word for it.
Young broad beans, no bigger than a little finger nail will be here by the end of the month. It is possible to eat them pods and all at this stage. The late and much-missed food writer Jeremy Round suggested sautéeing the whole beans for a few minutes in olive oil with chopped shallot, lemon juice, a little sugar and salt then adding water and chopped dill before stewing them slowly for an hour and half. When the beans are cold he stirred in more fresh dill and enough strained Greek yoghurt to bind them into a soft dip. The Turks serve this as a meze with strips of warm pitta.
The pea shoots are a true delicacy for those who can find them. I missed out last year. Best hunting grounds are Chinese greengrocers and farm shops. You could also try bribing a friend with an allotment. Just toss the tendrils into hot oil if you like then sprinkle them with flakes of sea salt, or to get their clean greenness at its most pronounced eat them in a salad. Best dressed with nothing but lemon juice and a very light and fruity olive oil, they have a flavour like nothing else. Jumble them into the salad bowl with the smallest, sweetest spinach leaves you can find and some hot skinny rocket for a salad whose textures will amaze and delight.
Tiny ivory turnips blushed with rose pink are this season's pleasant surprise. Expect them towards the end of the month. They are as different from the fat autumn turnips as petit pois are from marrowfat peas. Nina Planck, author of the The Farmers' Market Cookbook (Hodder & Stoughton £18.99) boils them in salted water with baby carrots till tender, then tosses them in olive oil in a shallow pan with lightly fried young leeks. A fine lunch with a lump of British cheese on the side.
There is something of a knee-jerk reaction with cheese at this time of year with everyone jumping at the new season's chevres. But there is no reason why it has got to be goat's cheese. The young Lancashire about right now is as mild and milky as I have ever tasted it. Try it with a few of those broad beans I mentioned earlier - boiled, skinned and tossed with oil, lemon and chopped parsley. Creamy St Marcellin from a proper cheesemonger is the stuff to ooze over a slice of crisply toasted sourdough.
I have already had my wrists slapped from some who say I am unfair to spring lamb. I find it bland and pappy. They love its tenderness. It is, of course a treat for many and those who like their meat mild should head straight for the butchers and secure themselves a clutch of those dainty cutlets. Sprinkle over only the tiniest pinch of new, tender needles of rosemary and some light olive oil then grill briefly, so that the inside is still rose-hued.
Now so many of us seem to have re-thought how we use chicken, its presence on the table has once again become a huge treat. Buying an organic free-range chicken once a week rather than joints of what I call 'poulet industrial' twice a week reinstates the sense of occasion and respect the bird deserves. This spring I have twice spread herb butter - tarragon, parsley and baby thyme leaves mashed into a lump of salted butter - under the skin of a fat free-ranger. I slit the skin just enough to get my fingers in, then pushed the aromatic butter through the slit and over the flesh as best I could. The faintest whiff of garlic came from smashing a couple of cloves and stuffing them inside the carcass with half a lemon. The result was a juicy, self-basting chicken with a mild herbal flavour.
There is some stunning fish about: both crab and lobster is in plentiful supply and you may even spot fresh whitebait, but the real star of the show is salmon. If the price of the paler- fleshed wild variety has stabilised it might be worth buying a piece to eat cold with mayonnaise as an early summer lunch, otherwise it's farmed cutlets and steaks for the grill. At this time of year I cannot get the perfect pairing of cucumber and salmon out of my head. It works on sandwiches, in salads and as a main course and vegetable. I like the classic method of peeling cucumber into cork shapes and stewing it in butter with just a little water. Chopped dill fronds and salt are the only necessary seasonings.
This is still a low time for fruit lovers, but the first hard little gooseberries should be here by the very end of the month. A moment sharply anticipated by those of us devoted to this fruit's keen green tang. Celebrate your first spotting with a crumble, then progress to the obligatory and unsurpassable gooseberry fool.
Until then it's pineapples and pawpaw. There are some good Italian and Spanish oranges about too, so a sumptuous fruit salad is on the cards. My instinct is to leave it be, but I know you might be tempted to sprinkle it with a little kirsch or even white rum. Not me. Just lots of limes, halved and piled in a little dish for those who want them.
Best meal of the week has been a plate of lightly boiled asparagus and broad beans - the latter popped from their skins - with a little fresh goats' cheese melted on top. Spring has sprung, as they say.