If there’s ever been a foolproof way to cook delicious food, it’s using quality produce that is in season. It’s something that chefs know innately and is why, as the seasons change, so does the menu.

At this time of year, Southgate restaurants are abuzz with vibrant new seasonal dishes. We’ve spoken to the chefs at some of Melbourne’s best riverside restaurants to find out their best tips for spring-summer produce

Southgate chefs share their advise on how to select the best spring-summer produce:

Zucchini flowers

While it isn’t necessarily a household staple, the elegant zucchini flower shouldn’t intimidate you. With its lush green stem and bright orange/yellow flower – this vegetable always looks great on a plate, is simple to cook and versatile.

What to look for:

When you’re buying zucchini flowers, opt for closed flowers with bright colours – generally that means they have been picked early in the morning and are fresh. You want the stem to be firm and to have a slightly sweet scent.

Our pick at Southgate:

Tutto Bene’s Fior di Zucchini: fried zucchini flowers, roast pumpkin, peppitos and mustard fruit – it looks beautiful and tastes even better!

Asparagus

Asparagus loves spring! As the weather warms up you’ll see big bunches of this delicious vegetable just asking for you to take it home and cook up a storm. And the beauty is that you don’t need to do much to it to create a tasty dish. It’s equally at home lightly sautéed as a side, as it is in an omelette or tossed through a fresh, zesty salad.

What to look for:

When looking for fresh asparagus choose produce that has a bright colour and sweet smell. Additionally you should to make sure that your vegetable has a nice thick stem that snaps when it’s broken – limp asparagus is a sign that the vegetable isn’t a fresh.

Our pick at Southgate:

Pure South Dining’s delicious asparagus, hazelnut, Mountain River yoghurt with beurre noisette is sure to send your taste buds to heaven.

Lemons

If you’ve been keeping an eye on lemon trees in your neighbourhood you’ll know that spring is the time that this fruit is ready for picking. And while we have grown accustomed to having an abundance of lemons consistently available all year long, you can’t go past fresh, local lemons that are in season. They’re sweeter, juicier and just more delicious.

What to look for:

As a general rule, you should look for bright yellow lemons with a nice fragrance. If you’re buying a lemon for juicing, choose one that is heavy for it’s size, appears to have a thinner skin and gives a little when you squeeze it. If it’s the zest you’re after, then you should opt for a lemon with a thicker skin.

Our pick at Southgate:

Damon Bradley’s Devonshire lemon and berry crepe with their award-winning lemon curd topped with fresh berries and double cream. Crepe-y goodness and zesty lemon fragrance guaranteed.

Corn

Corn, sweet corn – we’re calling it, this humble field crop is having a come back. Whether an accompaniment to salad, cooked on the cob, Mexican-style or popped and buttery – this delicious vegetable is definitely a crowd-pleaser.

What to look for:

Keep your eye on the small details. Be sure to pull back the skin and look for bright, succulent kernels that smell sweet. If there are kernels missing from the husk or they appear to be shriveling, this is a sign that the corn is not as fresh as it could be – and won’t burst with flavour the way it should.

Our pick at Southgate:

Waterfront Southgate’s smoked bacon & clam chowder with sweet corn and spring onions.