We’ve all heard of ‘eating seasonally’ but when our supermarket shelves are stacked with ‘fresh’ foreign goodness – apples from New Zealand, tomatoes from Spain and green beans from Kenya – it is no surprise we are not doing too well when it comes to focusing on seasonal eating habits and our food choices on the UK seasons.
Our reliance on fruit and vegetables from abroad came to light earlier this year when poor weather conditions in the Mediterranean caused a shortage of many of our staples including lettuce, courgette, aubergine, tomatoes and broccoli, sparking shock headlines and panic in our kitchens. Tesco and Morrison’s even had to stop shoppers from buying more than three iceberg lettuces per visit.
Many of us claim to eat seasonally or at least know about our seasons, but when asked to name our blackberry, gooseberry and plum seasons in a British poll, more than 90% got it wrong.
We could clearly be doing better. There are the obvious environmental benefits if you choose local over foreign ‘fresh’ foods, and it of course gives greater support to our farmers. Many people also attest to a better flavour and taste in local and seasonal produce that haven’t travelled thousands of miles to your plate, and anyone who’s enjoyed a homegrown strawberry in the summer versus a shop-bought one in the winter would agree. Nutritionally there are also benefits, especially when it comes to heat- and light-sensitive nutrients that can become depleted during transit. A study on broccoli found local, seasonal broccoli contained twice as much vitamin C than the out-of-season broccoli that had been shipped in from afar. Many foods destined for distant markets need to be picked before they are ripe, and are often chemically ripened to make sure they reach their destination in perfect condition. Ripening chemicals such as calcium carbide are not something your want on your dinner plate.
An easy way to get back in touch with our homegrown goodness is by making a weekly trip to your local farmers’ market. Increasingly popular, farmers’ markets offer fresh, seasonal produce and a more inspiring food shopping experience than a walk down the supermarket aisle. They are a great way to learn about our food, taste different varieties and teach the younger generation that fruit and vegetables come from the soil and not plastic wrapping. You get to meet the farmers, growers and fisherman who have worked hard to bring you the tastiest foods and be inspired by their passion. To find your local market, go to London Farmers’ Markets. Enjoy!
Getting the best from your trip to the Farmer’s Market
- Set a budget before you go, say £40. I like to figure out what prepared foods I may like. A sausage roll for my 6 year old. That lovely veggie curry for me? £10 leaving £30 for fresh produce & meat or fish. This way there are no surprises.
- Bring the ‘Clean 15’ and ‘Dirty Dozen’ lists, I always do a screen capture on my phone. This is a list of the least sprayed fruits and veggies and most sprayed so you can choose your organic/non organic produce while staying within budget!
- Shop by colour. Make sure you have a rainbow in your basket. This keeps it varied and super healthy!
- Bring your trolley if you have one. Anytime I have only brought a small cloth bag I have left with more than I carry and plastic bags which I regret taking….and have to recycle.
- Arrive early for ‘specialty’ produce and arrive late for the best deals. Often people have great deals towards the end to get rid of it all. If you buy 3 bags of in season pears just blend them up and pop in to freezer trays for smoothies.
- Don’t get too excited and buy too much. Wastage is wasteful and expensive! Often markets are on the weekend so take advantage and pre-prep some veggies to use in salads later in the week. See my tips on perfect grilled vegetables below.
- Bring your kids and or partner, get them to pick out something they like. If they get involved they will be more open to new things. A little bribery about time on the rope swing usually helps ( could be kicking the ball around, a treat from a vendor…you get the idea)
- Ask the farmers and vendors on how to cook things. I have found a few great recipes and cooking tips this way, it also may help in trying new things. What exactly do you do with those Jerusalem artichokes, sir?
- Walk through before you start buying. Prices can vary and so can quality so pick wisely.
Perfect grilled Vegetables
- Choose your vegetables.
- If mixing root veggies and lighter vegetables such as broccoli or Brussel sprouts just cut the heartier ones in smaller pieces and leave the lighter ones in large chunks.
- Mix with a bit of oil. I love Biona cuisine coconut oil or Nutiva red palm, you may have to melt it first then shake it all together, a few tsps. should be fine.
- Simple sea salt & pepper or I love adding lemon zest as well. Spice mixes or sumac are always tasty.
- Bake at 220 c (425 f) for about 25 minutes flip at the halfway point and leave a bit longer for heartier fall veggies.
Written and photography by Fig & Bloom. They are Stephanie Ridley, Dorothy Barrick and Caroline Flower. Stephanie is a BANT and CNCH registered nutritional therapist with a degree in nutrition, Dorothy is a holistic chef and recipe developer and Caroline is an ex-food buyer and management consultant. They combine science-based nutrition and delicious food to help their clients to eat better to feel better and to improve their long term health and wellbeing. They offer private consultations, bespoke meal plans and recipes, group workshops and workplace talks. They also work with food and drink brands and businesses providing nutritional analysis and claims, nutrition research and content, recipe development and food photography.