We should be forced to eat the seasons

Updated on 29 March 2011 | 0 Comments

We've lost touch with the seasons - should we be forced to stick with them? Kirsty Page thinks so.

We have got so used to being able to buy whatever we want, whenever we want, that the idea of seasonality has gone out the window.  So if this luxury was taken away from us, would it really be such a catastrophe?

I think not. In fact, I think we should be forced to eat seasonal fruit and vegetables. Here’s why.

The need to import

Since 1996, the EU has ruled that food products should advertise the country of origin loud and clear on the packaging.  While before we were oblivious as to whether our apples came from Cheshire or China, we can now trace our shopping back to the corner of the globe that it came from.

Wandering through the supermarket, I am tempted by any number of sumptuous looking fruit and veg.  Colourful strawberries dot the aisles and there are flashes of midnight blue from the plump, luscious blueberries.  Then I think to myself, hang on, it’s only March. 

On closer inspection I can see that these juicy little numbers have been flown in from as far away as Morocco, Peru and Mexico.  There are beans from Kenya, plums from Turkey and tomatoes from Spain.

Now, of course we need to import food into the UK or else we’d never so much as clamp eyes on a passion fruit or a pineapple and the world be a sorry, sorry place for it.  A life without bananas is, after all, hardly a life at all. 

My issue is that much of the fresh produce that we import can be grown right here on British soil. 

We grow some of the best fruit and veg around - come late summer and the countryside is littered with blackberries while May and June bring us mountains of glorious asparagus.  In fact, we have enough seasonal produce to feed an army... so why do we need to be plied with imports 12 months a year?

Why eat seasonally?

I think we are so used to having fully stocked shelves from January through to December that we have lost touch with the natural food seasons that we lived by for centuries. 

But so what? Why should you seasonally? 

Reduce food miles

Firstly, it significantly reduces the energy and subsequent CO2 emissions that result from shipping over produce.  Even though some foods such as bananas tend to be transported by boat, food that has been flown in clocks up some seriously nasty air miles.

Unfortunately, it’s not all crystal clear.  Some products grown in the UK in heated greenhouses, for example, can actually have a higher carbon footprint than those imported from abroad.

But in my view, this is simply further proof that we should stick to the seasons and eat what we are able to grow naturally outside (or inside in naturally-heated greenhouses) at any one time of year.

Avoid premium prices

By staying seasonal, you can save money. You often end up paying a premium for food that has travelled a long way; it makes sense that as a consumer, you pay extra if your fruity friend has come all the way from South Africa than if it just jumped over the fence from the neighbouring county.

Support the local economy

By buying British produce, you are helping local growers and suppliers and plough money back into the local economy. 

It tastes better!

There’s no denying that something freshly picked off the vine or dug up from the soil will taste infinitely better than anything that has been sat in storage then on a plane for who knows how long.  Taste is the number one priority when it comes to food, so if the option to eat quality, seasonal produce is there, we should take it.

It encourages variety

It’s all too easy to settle into a routine when we have access to the same ingredients all year round.  Eating seasonally encourages us to be more adventurous with our cooking and try new ingredients.  If you took away some of the choice we currently have, we would be forced to really look at what we produce and use what the good British soil yields.

Won’t I starve?

In a word, no! While it’s true that a lot of British fruits crop in the summer, we’re hardly going to be hunting around for scraps in the meantime.  When raspberries and strawberries go into hiding, apples and pears come out to play; and when they’ve gone all shy, it’s time for the plums to step up to the mark. 

When we need filling up in the winter, swedes, turnips and parsnips fit the bill.  In true Olympic style, the culinary baton then gets handed to the broccoli and spinach who take over when Spring come a’knocking.  And in summer, we’ve got broad beans and spinach coming out of our ears. 

So you see, we’re hardly going to starve now are we?

Read What you should be eating now to find out what's in season at the moment!

Patience is a virtue

Good things come to those who wait, so the saying goes.  And I completely agree. I really don’t see the need to have 12 month access to fruit and veg that we can grow in the UK when all we need to do is simply wait. 

Plus, I'm not arguing we get rid off all imported food, simply the stuff we can grow ourselves. 

Just one more aged cliché before I finish; absence makes the heart grow fonder.  I’m fairly certain this wasn’t meant as an ode to a carrot but the absence of some fruit and veg for a few months a year, will surely make it all the more exciting when it does start to appear. 

I can live without eating raspberry pavlova in December, can you?

Also worthy of your attention:

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The best places to buy food online

My top five tips for cooking with apples

My secret ingredient


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