If you are interested in eating seasonally, or grow your own produce then you may be well acquainted with the “Hunger Gap”.
This is a term leftover from a time when we were truly eating seasonally, through necessity. It is the period between Winter and Spring, when all the stored roots/potatoes/onions/fruits have come to an end, and the spring produce hasn’t had chance to grow yet. The particular period is different every year depending on the weather, but as a rule, April is the leanest month.
Although many people think fondly of a time when we only ate UK seasonal produce, the reality of that is actually quite harsh; the only fruits you would have access to is rhubarb and any you had preserved in the winter months. Potatoes and cabbage would be the main veg, and as much as I love them, I’m not massively endeared by the idea of having them for tea every single day. We are very glad to have European oranges, grapefruit and sweet potatoes to liven up what would be a very dull offer.
There’s obviously an environmental implication when produce comes from abroad, but it’s not straightforward. Our wholesaler uses shipped produce, rather than anything that is flown, which has MUCH less of an impact. It’s important to consider all factors, but this can be very tricky just as a consumer when you just want to pop into Morrisons and get something your bloody kids will eat. As an example to outline the point- you can often see “UK grown tomatoes” in the supermarkets at various times of the year, but these will often have been grown in heated glasshouses. Shipping tomatoes over from Spain when they are in season uses just a tenth of the carbon it would take to grow them in the UK in a heated environment.
We are still new to all this and constantly learning. We look to companies we respect, such as Unicorn Grocery in Chorlton and Riverford to lead the way. For anyone wanting to know more about all of this, I have included some links from these companies at the bottom of the page for further reading.
We are often hidden from the scarcity of UK fruit and veg at this time of year; as soon as the sun peeps out in March, supermarkets are full of “spring produce” and glossy magazines with spring recipes. A closer look at labels will show you that there are still many imports as it is the leanest time of year for UK farmers. This year in particular has seen some lines finish earlier than usual such as kale and broccoli due to the insanely wet weather.
All this being said, obviously there are still some things in season here over the next couple of months. The graphic at the top of the page gives you an idea. We are unlikely to see things such as spring greens, asparagus and new potatoes until right at the end of April, but fingers crossed for some Purple Sprouting Broccoli soon!
Whilst we wait for the new produce to come through, it’s good to make full use of your freezer. Plenty of veg can be chopped and frozen to be used at a later date. If you are feeling particularly like a domestic wizard, google some pickle, chutney or fermenting recipes which will see your veg go a lot further over the next couple of months.
As ever, we would absolutely love to hear any tips you have, or any recipes you are fond of for preserving. Feel free to share them on our facebook, twitter or instagram pages to give us some inspiration!
Links for further reading: