Monday, 18 February 2013

Eating in Season

Lately, I find myself looking at the shelves of fruit and veg in the supermarket and struggling to find much that I actually want to eat. Not because I don't like it but because it has been imported from Chile, Mexico or Morocco. I have decided that, where possible (due to climatic reasons), I am only going to buy seasonal produce from the UK - or elsewhere in Europe if it doesn't grow here. I have been heading this way for a few years but now I'm getting serious about it.

Fruit and veg that is in season locally tastes much better than food that has been shipped over and lost it's freshness. I remember some strawberries I bought a couple of years ago. I'm not usually that partial to strawberries but these were heaven! I went back to the farm shop for some more and they'd all sold out. I was told that they'd never known anything be so popular before. They were grown about three miles from my home.
I also love cherries when they are in season. Crave them daily. They are so juicy and delicious. Whenever I've bought cherries in the winter they have inevitably been imported from South America or somewhere and are sour in comparison.

Apples that I picked myself from a local orchard

I would also rather give my money to local producers and cut out the middle-man where possible. At Christmas I only bought local beer and wine - the wine directly from the vineyard and the beer from a farm shop. This is a recent extension of my quest to only buy European wine, which started when I insisted the wine at our wedding, five years ago, was French red and Italian white.

Buying locally and eating in season doesn't stop with fruit and vegetables either. Meat and fish are also very regional and in season at different times in different countries. Although I don't eat lamb, it is normal for it to be imported from New Zealand at this time of year. New Zealand is 11,500 miles away - Crazy!

I also don't trust that foreign produce isn't genetically modified. I've been reading a lot lately about all the GMO crops in various countries around the world. For the time being atleast, there are only two licences for commercial GM crops in Europe and one of those is moving it's development to the US due to lack of support in Europe. This makes me more confident about the food that I'll be buying.
Then of course there's the unecessary environmental impact of shipping and flying all this produce around the world.

I've always looked forward to the Jersey Royal season and the asparagus season - and the strawberry season since I discovered those delicious local strawberries. I also look forward to blackberry picking in the autumn. So between buying local produce and growing my own in my gradually expanding vegetable patch (well, assortment of planters at the back of my house!) I hope to become more aware of seasonal varieties and incorporate them more into our meals. It would be logical to assume that eating seasonal produce is what nature intended and therefore healthier for our bodies, giving us the right vitamins and nutrients at the corresponding time of year.

My home-grown radishes and spring onions
(the onions are a bit short because Lucinda picked them!)

Examples of in season foods for February are: Carrots, leeks, cabbage, sprouts, cauliflower, purple sprouting broccoli and kale -  and unique to my local area, forced rhubarb.

Local forced rhubarb

Other foods that are available all year round are potatoes, onions and mushrooms, amongst others.
Adding those to a slightly wider range available if including produce from southern Europe, there's a lot to get stuck into. Yum!