• 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.

Extending the seasons

Domestic goddess rating: 50% Five-a-day: 2/5 Food miles: about 40

On the menu: Toast & juice (breakfast); scrambled eggs (lunch); baked potatoes, ham and salad (supper – we’ve been swimming again)

earlynantescarrots.jpgI sowed my first batch of carrots today – about two weeks earlier than usual. No, of course the ones in the picture aren’t mine – as if! These are grown by those lovely people at the HDRA, or Garden Organic as it’s known these days – they run an organic gardening catalogue which is where I get most of my seed.

Anyway, I digress. The point is, if I get going early this year and sow the right varieties, I can extend the season by up to a month. That means I can be eating carrots a whole month earlier than I otherwise would be, which has to be worth doing in my book.

The right varieties in this case means Early Nantes 2, which is one of the best for really early sowings like this. Actually Early is a bit of a mis-nomer – it doesn’t mean it’s an early crop, just that it matures faster, so this is also a good variety to sow very late in the season when you want your crop to bulk up and mature as quickly as possible before the winter sets in. So it’s good for extending the seasons both ends. It’s not just carrots you can do this with – salad leaves, peas, broad beans, spinach, onions, and a whole host of other things lend themselves to the technique, too.

I’ll also be sowing every two weeks – aka successional sowing. If you sow little and often, you end up with some crops coming through continuously all through the season. You also avoid those irritating gluts when you have more of one type of veg than you can cope with one month – and end up very short the next. It works to iron out the dips you get when a crop fails for whatever reason, too.

Whether I can keep it up is another matter… I’ll keep you posted!

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