• 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.

Post-holiday comfort food

Domestic goddess rating: 100% (holiday recovery mode so indulging us all) Five-a-day: 5/5 Food miles: about 40

On the menu: toast, jam & juice (breakfast); chicken soup (lunch); cauliflower goulash (supper)

Just got back from a lovely relaxing holiday in Cornwall to the standard attack of blues over not being able to spend all day on the beach any more. Actually that’s totally unrealistic anyway as we only got to the beach a couple of days – the rest of the time it was too rainy, too windy, or both. Mustn’t complain, though – we had a fab time anyway, and it really was lovely to get away for a bit.

Eating seasonally while you’re away is mainly a matter of self-catering, it seems. Go to a pub, and there will be tomato and cucumber involved somewhere (yeah, I know, I’ve moaned about this one before). But once you’re back in the holiday house, you’re laughing: we ate seasonally almost without thinking, all week long. It’s nice to know it’s become a habit rather than a necessity now.

Just to make us feel a bit better, I had an experiment with this month’s “it” vegetable – cauliflowers are back on the menu. I have to confess, this is a veggie that normally gets me totally stumped, beyond the rather stodgy cauliflower cheese. But I’m planning to spend a little time getting to know it better – hopefully I’ll discover it has hidden wonderfulness that I never knew existed. Or, it could just turn out soggy.

It’s a good start, though: cauliflower goulash is a mish-mash of Delia’s goulash recipe, plus a vegetarian goulash recipe I never thought worked very well. The result is actually rather fine.

Tripping over what’s on my doorstep

Domestic goddess rating: 0% (am total restaurant slut) Five-a-day: 3/5 Food miles: none (that we racked up personally, anyway)

On the menu: Fried egg and potato (sinfully indulgent breakfast); caesar salad at the restaurant by the cinema (ditto lunch); Chinese meal with friends (ditto supper)

It’s been the Long Good Friday as far as food’s concerned today. Didn’t cook a thing: hubby made breakfast, then some nice people in a Tex-mex restaurant made lunch and the lovely Chinese family in the village cooked us our supper in their restaurant. Actually it’s all been pretty seasonal: since we weren’t eating English (i.e. pub-grub) we managed to avoid the ubiquitous tomato-and-cucumber combo that seems to land on your plate whatever you order. There has to be a seriously profound paradox in there, though I’m damned if I know what it is.

I found a great website today for finding out where your nearest local food producers are. I’ve got really into this idea of sourcing everything from within a 10-mile radius or so – it’s almost always seasonal, and you know exactly where it’s come from (almost as good as growing it yourself!)

It generally takes a whole lot of research and a good dollop of luck, though – unless you have BigBarn behind you. I just typed in my postcode and – bingo! Unbelievably, I discovered there’s a whole country market ithat takes place in the next-door village every Friday, with over 450 outlets all selling local produce, and I never even knew it existed. I’ve lived here 7 years, and I thought I had my ear to the ground where local food was concerned. I also found I had a local cheese-maker about 5 miles away, not one but two vineyards, and more farm-gate meat suppliers than you can shake a stick at.

Wow… time to go discover what’s on my doorstep, I think.

Eating out

Domestic goddess rating: 0% (still in holiday mode) Five-a-day: 4/5 Food miles: about 40

On the menu: Toast,  jam & juice (breakfast); cheese sandwich (lunch); mushroom & leek risotto (supper)

I’m just back from a three-day mini-break in Hay-on-Wye, which for anyone who doesn’t know it is a gorgeous town on the Welsh border full of bookshops. We stayed in a fabulous bed & breakfast (Lower House at Cusop Dingle – if you get the chance, stay there, it’s fantastic) and had a great time munging around in dusty old bookshops finding treasures.

Eating seasonally when you’re out is practically impossible, I find, though. It’s a bit like being vegetarian used to be 20 years ago, when everyone looked at you in a wierd sort of way and not a single menu had anything on it that didn’t include meat.

For the seasonal eater in February, every salad garnish turns up with cucumber and tomatoes; every cooked breakfast is bedecked with grilled tomatoes (which is not to say they aren’t spectacularly tasty, of course). I didn’t get too wound up about it – but I did have to take a few days out of my seasonal year. It reminded me, though, how much everyone else in the world takes so little notice of the seasons. It’s just what I’m trying to avoid: that knee-jerk “it’s salad, it’s got to be cucumber” sameness that food takes on when you have everything all the time.

It may have been a break, but it didn’t feel like a holiday – more like a return to something I’d thought I’d escaped. I think, on the whole, I prefer it my way.

Meaty matters

Domestic goddess rating: 10% Five-a-day: 4/5 Food miles: not too sure really

On the menu: Muesli and juice (breakfast); nibbles at a press do (lunch); pasta and (tinned) tomato sauce (supper)

Not exactly a virtuously seasonal day today – but I was out in London all day at a press conference. There were some fancy nibbles laid on for lunch – eating out is a little tricky when you’re trying to be seasonal as you have to second-guess what’s in everything. But I’m not going to turn down a free lunch so I just picked what I thought fitted the bill.

As you’ll probably have noticed by now, we do eat meat, and meat also follows the seasons to some extent. Being a bit of a seasonal-eating virgin, I’m not too clear as to what’s in season when, but we’ve been doing our little bit to try to fit in to what’s available. So we’ve chatted up the local smallholder, a very friendly and easy-going bloke called Howard who has a small flock of sheep in a field just down the road from us.

He’s been getting his lambs ready for slaughter in the last few weeks or so, and the other day he came up trumps, so we’ve now got one of his year-old lambs in our freezer. It’s great meat, and at £75 for a whole lamb – that’s four good Sunday joints, a good two-dozen chops and a couple of kilos of lamb mince – it’s almost supermarket prices. And best of all, it’s got about half-a-food-mile on the clock. Perfect.