• In season now: May

    New this month: Asparagus! The food of gods... and carrots are back.

    Still in season from last month: cauliflower, chard, green cabbage, salad leaves, main-crop potatoes (from store), salad leaves, sea kale, spring greens, rhubarb

    Goodbye till next year to: Purple sprouting broccoli (sniff, sniff), leeks, stored parsnips, forced rhubarb

  • What I’m doing here

    This all started when I picked the first strawberries from my new allotment.

    I'd never been so enraptured or so excited by food. It was a shock to find that anything could taste so good.

    So what - I'd never had strawberries before?

    No - all the strawberries I'd had were shop-bought, like as not flown in from intensive growers in Spain or Chile, and eaten in winter when strawberries should be a distant summer memory.

    It revolutionised my thinking about the fresh food we eat every day. I started to wonder if you got the same amazing taste from all types of food grown and eaten in season. And then I decided to do something about it.

    The Year of Eating Seasonally is my little experiment to find out what it's really like not to have it all. The only fruit and veg I and my family are going to eat in 2008 will be what's growing in the ground at the time (or, in winter, what I can get out of store).

    I want to find out if the hungry gap is really as hungry as everyone says it is: whether you're really eating nothing but cabbage all winter; and whether you miss strawberries in December.

    Along the way I hope I'll save a few tons of carbon being released into the atmosphere on my behalf, as I won't be requiring those French beans flown from Chile, thanks very much. And I hope I'll be rediscovering what food can really taste like.

    If you have any comments, please feel free to post them anywhere you like - or you can email me at sallywhite@hotmail.com.

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Always in season

Domestic goddess rating: 50% (taking it a bit easy but good supper tonight) Five-a-day: 3/5 Food miles: about 40

On the menu: Muesli & juice (breakfast); cheese, crackers & pate (lunch); leek and mushroom risotto (supper)

Mushrooms are a tricky one. Theoretically, I shouldn’t be eating them at any time other than in the autumn – say, September and October. But these are one of the few veg that are factory-farmed: produced, intensively, all year round in big sheds without much variation on needs or seasonality. It seems to be “wild” mushrooms – that is, oysters, shiitake, and ceps which have an actual season, and in fact everyone gets so excited about them in autumn that it’s one of the few seasonal foods we all know about.

Common-or-garden button mushrooms, though, are different. I quote from the wonderful Riverford organic veg box scheme’s website:

“Here in Britain, 98% of all mushrooms grown and sold are the common cultivated mushroom, Agaricus bisporus.” It goes on to say: “In their natural environment mushrooms are in season in the autumn. Commercial production in carefully controlled growing rooms allows mushrooms to be cultivated all year round.”

I treat, for example, chicken and beef as all-year-round foods (unlike, say, lamb – which is mature at the end of the year and should be bought then). It seems that here we have an all-year-round vegetable, too. I’m not sure whether commercial production of mushrooms is particularly environmentally friendly or not: do they heat these sheds, for example? But that’s one for a bit of extra research. Until then – it’s mushrooms with everything.


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