The issue in this wonderful country of ours is that in our supermarkets and greengrocers, there is such a massive choice of fruits and vegetables for sale that we can buy most fruits and veg all year round. We should really focus on purchasing seasonal vegetables and fruits and where possible, buy those grown in the UK.
Why eat the seasons?
There are a number of good reasons to eat more local, seasonal food:
- To reduce the energy (and associated CO2 emissions) needed to grow and transport the food we eat.
- To avoid paying a premium for food that is scarcer or has travelled a long way.
- To support the local economy.
- To reconnect with nature’s cycles and the passing of time.
Most importantly though, eating seasonally ensures that food is eaten when it is most fresh, so it tends to be tastier and more nutritious.
The majority of the UK population grow up in urban areas with little or no awareness of when and where various foods are produced. Imports from around the world ensure that supermarket shelves look the same, week in week out.
Fruit and vegetables make up a large number of the foods that we should focus on, alongside meat and seafood for a balanced diet. When buying fruit and vegetables, we should be aware of the seasons for produce from Southern Europe – it’s better to eat oranges, peaches and kiwi fruit flown over from Spain or Italy, rather than those that have travelled much further from Africa, America or Australia.
There are a small number of fruits grown outside Europe that we can’t live without – bananas, pomegranates and passion fruit – though we suggest that these are enjoyed, in moderation, when UK and European fruit is relatively sparse.
At The Canny Kitchen, we do, however, think it’s wasteful to buy asparagus flown in from South America, or apples shipped in from New Zealand, when for many weeks or months of the year, you can feast on far superior UK versions – often at a lower cost financially, as well as environmentally.
Whenever a particular UK-produced ingredient goes out of season, you can guarantee that another delicious food has come back into season to tempt us all. Ultimately, eating seasonally is about enjoyment not abstinence. People who are interested in food quality and have an awareness of when certain ingredients are at their best will, quite naturally, end up eating more of the foods in season and less of those shipped half-way around the world.
Of course, even when a food is in season, its quality can vary dramatically. Food produced locally, such as that bought from a farmers’ market, is likely to be a lot fresher than its supermarket equivalent.
Suggestions for schools
- Hold assemblies and/or classroom workshops to talk about seasonal fruits, vegetables, fish and meats (include fruit and vegetable displays with these and encourage pupils to research and undertake a project on foods that are local and seasonal).
- Plan an outing/class trip to a farmers’ market, farm shop or greengrocers and choose some seasonal fruits and vegetables to cook in school.
- Cook at least one savoury meal every month in school with each class, using some seasonal produce.
- Make jams and chutneys with older children, using seasonal fruits and vegetables.
- Grow herbs in classrooms and use in cooking and in special recipes such as one-pot meals, such as soups, stews and stir-fries.
Recommended resources for schools
- Eat the Seasons <eattheseasons.co.uk>
This website lists foods that are in season now, shows ‘Seasonal Food of the Week’ and offers UK seasonal food information, tips and recipe ideas which are updated every week.
- BBC Good Food <http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/seasonal-calendar/all>
This website has a useful seasonal produce guide and a seasonality table.
Brought to you by:
The Canny Kitchen, based in County Durham, provides a range of cookery workshops to schools in Durham, Sunderland, Gateshead and South Tyneside.
With over 30 years’ experience in the catering industry, including 25 years spent working in schools, The Canny Kitchen provides tailor-made, relaxed and inspiring cookery workshops – supplying all the equipment, ingredients and uniforms, but most importantly the knowledge and professional expertise needed to make every session a success.
The Canny Kitchen also offers healthy eating sessions and cookery demonstrations to pupils, as well as providing schools with guidance on menu planning and advice on achieving the Healthy Schools Award.