Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Suburban Peasants guide to the Vegetable Crisis

Allegedly we're really short of vegetables in the UK. Or something. Courgettes are out of stock, iceberg lettuce is melting away, and there's a rude shortage of aubergines.

So we're seeing 'rationing' at supermarkets where they're restricting how many of each you can buy.

I'm a big believer in eating seasonally and locally - so I'm not affected by this. At all. Even a bit. Its February so, pretty much entirely, all of those things are being grown under cover in Southern Europe and even further afield. As the pound weakens and as imports get more expensive we'll be seeing such crops get ever more expensive at this time of year - so I would suggest simply using this as an opportunity to break the habit of relying on produce that'll only get harder to afford.

Now I'll grant you, traditionally February and March are the suckiest part of the year for local produce across most of the UK. Stored stuff is starting to want to go off as the days get longer, and fewer things are left standing in the fields - its had to survive through winter and now it all wants to run to seed and be ready to produce baby plants for Spring. If you go back a few hundred years people would actually be at risk of starvation. But we're not in the 15th century any more, and we have ample varieties of good, resilient vegetables to please anyone, before even we consider whats growing wild at this time of year.

Vegetables in season to buy

Brassicas are the stalwarts of winter vegetables - savoy cabbage, hard white and red cabbages, kale (cavolo nero, red kale, green curly kale...), Brussels sprouts, and of course sprouting broccoli and winter cauliflowers are all excellent now. Thin sliced white cabbage is a super basis for a salad. Leeks are still good and will be for another month or two, and you can get freshly dug parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes, and if you've a really good greengrocer maybe even salsify or scorzonera. Onions store well through winter, as do potatoes, squashes and pumpkins and its quite likely your local farm shop or market will have local ones of those. I also spotted some excellent local carrots, chard, beetroot, turnips and swedes. Oh, and the forced rhubarb is just starting. Do we really have to resort to air freighted shopping when such goodies are available? 

Cambridge Market, today.

Foraged Vegetables

The thing about February, the most amazing thing about this month, is that if you look really closely you'll see the rejuvenating shoots of Spring appearing all over the place. As the day gets longer, there are more and more green vegetables growing wild every single day - and they're young, tender, sweet and tasty, and the perfect basis for salad (I'll upload photos next time I pick some during daylight hours).

I'm gathering plenty of chickwed, three cornered leek, cow parsley, dandelions, crow garlic and Alexanders. I can go out and get a good green salad in minutes - its faster to walk down the hedgerow by the park on the way to the supermarket than it is to go to the actual supermarket. Why wouldn't I pick a salad rather than buy a more expensive one that'll not taste as good?

I'm also finding the occasional velvet shank mushroom, I'm still getting blewits, oyster mushrooms aren't unlikely and its not beyond the realms of possibility to find the odd morel near the end of the month.

I'm not suggesting here, for an instant, that you've all got to start growing all your own veg and foraging for every meal - but have we, as a nation, really got to a point where a shortage of imported lettuce holds back our eating habits? Is a lack of courgettes actually a problem? Britain, we're better than that. Can we you not all just do a bit better? Consider yourselves challenged...

No comments:

Post a Comment