Eat the seasons! Buy local! If you’ve read my posts enough times, you’ll know this is the kind of thing I like to go on about. I’ll merrily proclaim that we can eat well by sourcing food from our own region and that we need to train ourselves away from imported food when there is bounty on our doorsteps.
Of course, eating seasonally means you’ll be supporting our economy, reducing carbon emissions and improving your own health because food that has travelled less is often more nutritious. Local is often tastier too.
However… get me to the dark days of January and my (locally sourced) soap box is nowhere to be seen. The fact is, that if I was to eat just locally produced fruit at this time of the year, I would only consume apples (the Bramleys that haven’t yet gone squishy in my shed) and forced rhubarb, grown in the dark.
Let’s face it, yummy as these both are, neither will work in the packed lunch box or as a snack for the kids after school. Now is undeniably a poor time for British fruit.
By contrast, vegetable options at this time of year are interesting and varied. Those carrots, parsnips, swedes and sweet potatoes are amazing in hearty winter casseroles and stews. Meanwhile, the antioxidant-packed greens such as kale and cabbage make you feel all virtuous and Gwyneth Paltrow-esque after too much cheese and chocolate over Christmas.
But what about the fruit problem? If you care about seasonal and local produce, as well as getting your rainbow of fruit, then what should you do?
The trick is to seek fruit that is in season in southern Europe, rather than flown in from much further afield in Africa or America. Hence, now is the time to buy European citrus fruit, such as the clementine, orange and grapefruit. European pomegranates and pears should be widely available too.
Try to save imported produce from outside of Europe (such as bananas, passion fruit and papaya) for a treat.
For all fruit and veg, wherever it has come from, we need to forget perfection and embrace ugly. Jamie Oliver and farmer Jimmy Doherty, in their TV show ‘Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast’, have revealed the scary extent of how much delicious produce is wasted. This is simply because it doesn’t meet the beauty pageant rules demanded by supermarkets.
Being a bit crooked or having a slight external blemish is enough to condemn a fruit or vegetable to the bin. However, Asda has risen to the challenge and will trial selling ugly fruit and veg in a few stores, at a reduced rate. I’ll be keeping my crooked carrots crossed that it is a big success.
So it’s official, I like my fruit and veg how I like my men… local and a bit rough around the edges. Although a little Mediterranean charm doesn’t hurt at this time of year.
First published in the EDP and EADT, January 2015