Let Them Eat Carrots!
Last year we had our own carrots for boxes and at Stroud farmers’ market every single week of the year. Our first polytunnel carrots were harvested in mid-April, just as the previous season’s crop had finished. Some weeks they may have been very muddy or on the small side; but they were ours.
Suffice to say that I have been slightly incredulous at the impact the recent weather in Spain (above) where snow, rain and hail has devastated entire crops–has had on the vegetable market here in the UK. Newspaper headlines lamenting the “Veg Crisis” and highlighting the rationing in many supermarkets, where courgettes have risen in price by nearly 150% and iceberg lettuces–once described to me as “nothing but crispy water”–are being flown in from California. Yes, that’s right: lettuce flown in from California! I even read that icebergs were being auctioned on eBay for £50 a box.
Call me boring, but do we really need to eat these things in the middle of winter when they are not in season and are therefore so vulnerable to winter’s blast–and, by the way, are totally lacking in any flavour? Not to mention the huge environmental costs associated with airfreighting. It’s complete madness.
Of course, I do feel sorry for the growers who have lost the vast majority of their crops. But maybe the price they are getting for what crop remains is a reflection of the true cost of production. And at least they can console themselves with full water reservoirs for the summer ahead.
A silver lining for me, too: the Saturday Stroud market has been extremely busy, full of punters muttering about supermarket rationing and extortionate prices. If it wasn’t so scary, I would be indulging in a wry smile as I pondered how our solution to the extreme weather in Spain is to fly lettuces in from half way around the world. Chicken and egg comes to mind.
When will the penny drop that the answer is to eat what we are growing here and now? For the last month I have mostly been eating Brussel tops (left). I wouldn’t care if I saw out the rest of the winter out just eating them—with pasta, with fish stew, with butter and black pepper. I may be slightly biased but they are so delicious.
Then, of course, we have the countless winter roots and brassicas for roasts, soups and stews. In need of a mid-winter salad fix? Don’t buy tasteless icebergs: Choose instead the wide range of peppery winter-hardy salad leaves (right) we can grow in abundance in our polytunnels without the need for airfreight, such as mizuna, komatsuna, rocket, tatsoi and mustards, many plants originating from the Far East.
So go to the farmers’ market, visit your local farm shop or order a veg box and see what wonderful, flavoursome and healthy vegetables we can produce in the middle of winter. You’ll never buy a tasteless courgette or iceberg again!
So supermarkets are always cheaper, right?
The short answer? Absolutely not! We carried out a price comparison last week at Waitrose to find out how much it would cost to buy the same organic contents of one of our medium veg boxes at £13.20. We think you’ll be quite shocked at the results…