• 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.

Pulling the wool over our eyes

Domestic goddess rating: 10% (being right royally entertained tonight so someone else is having to do the goddess bit) Five-a-day: 5/5 Food miles: about 40

On the menu: Toast, jam and juice (breakfast); cheese sandwiches (lunch); a mystery surprise, but it’s sure to be a) vegetarian and b) healthy (supper at the in-laws’)

waitrosemagazine.jpg

Looks good, doesn’t it? Picked this up from Waitrose yesterday, thinking how fantastic that they’re giving away a free magazine to promote seasonal food.

There’s a clue to the rant that follows on the cover. The veg featured here – bearing in mind this is the March/April edition – are pears, beetroot, lemons, peas and rocket. Not one of those things is in season right now. You might make a grudging exception for the rocket, which you could conceivably grow under glass at this time of year. But peas?

Inside it’s no better. The first two features are about bananas – maybe in season, but only in the Caribbean – and sugar snap peas (in my book, they don’t arrive till late May at the very earliest).

 The first mention of anything seasonal doesn’t come till page 12, with a recipe for sautéed greens.  Sounds good, you might think? But as well as the greens (Swiss chard, which is fine) the ingredients include spinach (June), watercress (May) and beetroot stalks (June/July).

Nowhere, anywhere in the otherwise beautifully-produced magazine, is there a mention of purple sprouting broccoli, kale, savoy cabbage, spring greens, forced rhubarb, jerusalem artichokes… or indeed any of the fantastic and very tasty things which are in season at this time of year.

Now, if you read this regularly you’ll know I have nothing against supermarkets: they often can take loss leaders better than smaller shops, which means they can stock “unusual” seasonal veg like kale, so they’re actually a very good place to source seasonal veg.

But this continuing tendency to try to pull the wool over uninformed consumers’ eyes makes my blood boil. It’s bad enough calling rhubarb from Holland “seasonal” when we produce whole sheds of the stuff ourselves. They also make sure the information that tells you your bagged salad – supposedly in season in the UK at the moment – comes from all over the world (“produce of several different countries”) is in very small type.

But this one takes the biscuit: promoting a magazine with the title “Seasons” and the strapline “packed with inspirational and seasonal recipes” but filling it with downright unseasonal food. This is misinformation at its worst. I hate this deception: I hate this undermining of what ought to be a wholly positive and constructive movement.

Waitrose should be ashamed of itself. They profess to support small producers in this country, and have won more Soil Association Organic Food Awards than you can shake a stick at. Yet they’re engaged in the kind of cheap trick that gives supermarkets a bad name.  I’d expect this kind of thing of the T place – but I choose to go to Waitrose because of their links with local production and good-quality food. It’s just not good enough.

Rant over. For now, at least.

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3 Responses

  1. This might be because those in charge at Waitrose don’t have a good handle on how the months of the year go. The current ‘Flavour of the Month’ is set on November, and when you go to check out the ‘British Seasons’, the year seems to skip March and April.
    They are trying though…

  2. this kind of thing makes me super angry too.

    here in south africa i was reading a property magazine yesterday which also made my blood boil. it is delivered free to ‘affluent’ homes, but otherwise you can buy it for about R30 (about 2.50 pounds I think).

    it said this was it’s green issue… and, while some of the articles and adverts did relate to good green info and news, some of it was outrageous. i hate when companies and corporates appropriate the green agenda in order to look trendy and cool and concerned. and i hate it even more that it works! that people who don’t know as much about this as me (i study this stuff) just see the word ‘green’ or ‘eco-friendly’ and they believe it. they buy it or use it or whatever. their conscience is now clean.

    sorry to come in here and rant too – your post had that effect on me 😉
    great post, thanks!

  3. Oh, how dissapointing! It’s bad enough that most folks have no idea about seasonal (asparagus being served in January? Just a wee bit premature?), but then when a hard copy source comes out and delivers such horribly erroneous information — well, it just makes a mockery of the whole effort. Sigh. Thanks for sparing the rest of us the blood-boiling experience. *sympathetic smile*

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