• 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.

It’s ready when it’s ready

Domestic goddess rating: 50% (am having work-fest at the moment so hubby’s cooking, but I’m still growing) Five-a-day: 5/5 Food miles: none

On the menu: toast, marmalade and juice (breakfast); pasta and pesto (lunch); chops, chips and home-grown swiss chard and pine nuts (supper)

I found a great article today, by a recent convert to seasonal eating – she liked it so much she left work and set up her own veg box scheme (even more extreme than me, then).

You can read it here. The bit I like is the comment from a local veggie farmer where she lives, in Bedfordshire, who when asked when his spring carrots would be ready said “When they’re ready.”

A man after my own heart. One of the nicest things about eating seasonally is that it’s the ultimate in slow food – you can’t hurry anything. The chard isn’t ready until it’s decided to grow: there’s not much you can do to hurry it up, so all you can do is wait a bit longer. All that anticipation makes it all the more delicious when it arrives. Too much instant gratification makes life very dull sometimes…

Where to get seasonal food #1: Veg boxes

Domestic goddess rating: 10% (Mother’s Day – so have sat back all day and enjoyed being waited on by my lovely family…. ahhhh) Five-a-day: 5/5 Food miles: about 70

On the menu: Scrambled egg on toast & juice (breakfast); scrummy Sunday roast with friends – roast pork, sprout tops, roast spuds, and forced rhubarb crumble  (lunch); couldn’t fit another thing in (supper)

As regular readers will know, I’ve been really struggling to find some of the foods which are currently in season – kale, non-Dutch rhubarb, and I suspect shortly, PSB have all been a bit tricky, and salsify still has me entirely stumped.

So I thought I’d run through a few of the best places I’ve found for getting hold of seasonal food. First on the list: veg boxes.

Before I started growing my own with any modicum of seriousness, we had a year or so when we got a weekly veg box. I can’t remember where ours came from – it was right at the beginning, before they got as popular as they are now – but I do know it brought us nose to nose with some (for us at the time) really wierd veg. It was the first time I’d ever even seen kale, and I remember staring at Jerusalem artichokes in utter puzzlement (it was during this time that we had our horrible experience with these things, so it wasn’t entirely a positive acquaintance).

But we grew to enjoy our little cooking experiments, and to look forward to when our little box of surprises arrived on the doorstep. We did find that we wasted more veg than we would have done normally. It was super-fresh (and tasty) when it arrived, but organic veg isn’t coated with chemicals an’ all so has a natural lifespan – which isn’t very long, a few days at most, so you have to get on and use it. We just weren’t used to eating that many veg, and I think we never quite caught up with the pace – we’d be a lot better at it now.

I’d really recommend them as a way of getting to know some really different tastes and opening your eyes to all sorts of lovely veg. Because most veg box schemes have a farm attached, you know most of the food is local, not imported (keep a wary eye out for any “organic” schemes that actually ship in most of their stuff from Italy et al – it’s probably better for the planet if you just go to your local shops and source UK stuff, arguably whether or not it’s grown organically – but now I’m getting controversial).

I’ve put a few of the best-known veg box schemes over on the right, but if you want to find one that’s closer to you,  those nice people at Veg Box Recipes have a find-a-box-scheme section which tells you where to find out where it is. They’ll tell you how to cook what you get in your first box, too.