• 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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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.


Shopaholics anonymous

Domestic goddess rating: 20% (eating out of the freezer today) Five-a-day: 3/5 Food miles: none – amazing what you can do when you’re eating leftovers…

On the menu: Muesli & juice (breakfast); coffee (lunch on the hoof again); pasta and sauce from the freezer (supper)

It’s one of those splintered family days today when everyone’s off doing other things so we all eat at different times. Dad’s on shift till late this evening, Princess the Elder had gym class and eats with the friend she goes there with, and Princess the Younger and I were left to fend for ourselves. Now call me mingy, but I’m not about to start cooking gourmet grub for a five-year-old and me, so we used up a bit of the stash I’ve got building up in the freezer – one thing I will say for this seasonal eating malarky, you end up with a lot of leftovers. If we ever get hit by a nuclear strike we’ll be fine for about a decade.

One other thing I’ve noticed: you go shopping a lot more. Eating seasonally necessarily involves eating a lot more fresh food, which of course goes off very quickly. So you can’t have it hanging around more than a couple of days, which means going shopping at least twice a week.

Now this is something of a culture shock for me as I was until not very long ago a once-a-month supermarket shopper. I hate the places. There’s something so mind-numbingly mundane about pushing a trolley around trying to decide which brand of baked beans to buy this time.

I’m not anti-supermarket – in fact, I think they do their job (providing shampoo, salad and magazines under one roof for a good price) very well. But I do think they sometimes try to pull the wool over our eyes a bit. For example, I discovered in very small type that a bag of salad I almost bought in Waitrose the other day was “produce of more than one country” – I’d assumed that, given that salad is in season, a supermarket would buy it from British growers. One in the eye for British grub when you can grow it here but they choose to buy it somewhere else, isn’t it? So I don’t really trust them when it comes to eating seasonally, and spend so much time reading labels it takes me twice as long to shop there.

And, as well as the horror of having to go to the supermarket twice a week, it also occurred to me that I’d be driving for 20 minutes in order to get a basket of food so small I could practically stuff it in my pocket. Not exactly carbon neutral, then.

All this was pointing in the same direction: shopping local. We’re lucky enough to have a small parade of shops in our village, including a very good butcher and a good-enough greengrocer, as well as a mini-supermarket for the other stuff you have to buy. I can nip in there on my way to work, and it only takes me 20 minutes for the whole shop. Plus I’m supporting my local community, it doesn’t pump any extra carbon into the atmosphere, and I don’t spend my time having outraged hissy fits to myself at the veg counter and frightening the customers.