Monday, 7 February 2011

Food Glorious Food

Official research for the Scottish government has found that 36% of Scots have no idea what food is in season and when.

In order to educate the ignorant hoi polloi shops, chefs, restaurant owners and householders are all being urged to embrace seasonal fruit and vegetables as part of a new campaign dubbed 'Eat in Season'.

Richard Lochhead, the rural affairs minister said in-season food was often cheaper and tastier.  I would agree but only because there is a greengrocer in town.  Supermarkets can claim their fruit and vegetables are fresh but how do they define fresh?  I've been doing a wee experiment of my own over the past few months.  In the salad drawers of my fridge I have had some of my home grown apples and some supermarket apples.  They were placed there in September.  My tasty home grown fruit lasted nearly four weeks.  The supermarket bought fruit is still in the fridge but showing signs of 'shrivel' rather than decay.  They'll be fine for a glass of apple juice though.

Because my home grown apples rotted much quicker than the shop bought ones doesn't prove that they weren't as fresh as commercially grown fruit, but it does prove that commercially grown fruit is treated in some way to delay rot. In the past I've usually relied upon the appearance of food to convey it's freshness but no longer.

More seriously, why are so many people unaware of seasonal produce? Surely our schools should be teaching children the food and nutrition basics or are they too pre-occupied with sex, alcohol and other social issues? It would be easy to encourage children to visit this site and they would find out within minutes.

However, I do have some sympathy with those who do their best to education Scots in fresh, seasonal food because most of us now buy at supermarkets - many have no choice.  Also in winter the lure of a fish supper or a take-away curry can be too much.

I would like to think Mr Lochhead's project did make us aware of our 'seasonal larder' but I have my doubts.

Edward sent me this little tale. Has much changed?

It must be over 35 years ago because it was just before we married. I
was up in Glasgow and my soon-to-be wife sent me out for some shopping, including green beans. 

The nearest shop was a substantial Co-op. Looking at the
rather tattered, tired selection of veg, I asked an assistant,

"Do you have any green beans?"

"Do you mean Heinz* Beans, son?"  (Pronounced Heenz)

"No, green ones, fresh ones"

"This is Knightswood no' Hollywood".


Jim said...

That's a great site subrosa - thanks!

My wife and I were talking over the weekend about how poor our own awareness of which products were in season was - I'd like to think we're a reasonably well educated household who take our consumption, and what we give our children, due consideration.

I'm a bit fan of the localvore movement, of which fife has it's very own version for a few years now - known as the Fife Diet.

I applaud the initiative and hope it achieves something.

Doug Daniel said...

In regards to your apples example, my experiences have been the exact opposite when it comes to vegetables. A bunch of spring onions from Tesco go limp and mankit very quickly, becoming inedible within a week. Conversely, a bunch bought from the local fruit & veg shop are still fine after a week, and the ones my mum and dad grow in their back garden are still delicious after a week, more so than the Tesco ones ever were. Same goes for broccoli, celery, normal onions, mushrooms... pretty much everything.

Local produce is far superior to what you get in supermarkets. I get sausages any time I'm out and about Aberdeenshire, because they're an absolute treat in comparison to the bland rubbish you get in supermarkets like Walls and Richmonds. Even the supposed premium range/"Butcher's Choice" type sausages don't compare.

Hmmm, what's my point? Perhaps none. Sausages, mmm.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

I you can, grow your own for a couple of years.

You'll learn more about freshness, taste and seasons than you'll ever learn from a committee.

subrosa said...

I hadn't heard of the Fife diet Jim. Looks interesting. We don't 'diet' but buy locally if we can and we're lucky here with butchers etc. If I lived in Perth I'd struggle to find a greengrocer I think although there are a couple of good butcher.

This kind of initiative has been tried before I think. Perhaps school children need a few lessons in food and less in sex.

JuliaM said...

"In order to educate the ignorant hoi polloi shops, chefs, restaurant owners and householders are all being urged to embrace seasonal fruit and vegetables as part of a new campaign dubbed 'Eat in Season'."

And just why is this a concern of the state?

subrosa said...

Doug, apples were possibly a bad example but I used to because I'm convinced apples and other fruit are preserved in some way.

You're right about most veg though although green cabbage from a supermarket is a bit like their apples.

Sausages? Now that would be good for lunch.

subrosa said...

I grow a bit Crinkly but it has reduced in the past few years. Must have my own salad though and I plant it from April until October.

Woodsy42 said...

So Scotland has a growing season? I thought your seasons were snow, rain, gales and midge :-)

As for fruit I'm sure it is stored in an artificial atmosphere to keep it, or often picked unripe and artificially ripened. (can't you do this with tomatoes by placing them in a styrofoam box)
We pick our apples in September and they store in a cool place until well after Christmas.

Woodsy42 said...

"I grow a bit Crinkly "

me too, it's an age thing, but there are some amazing moisturising creams on the market.
OK I'll get my coat and leave now!

subrosa said...

It shouldn't be Julia, but the SG is regularly pushing Scottish produce. Unfortunately, with most folk shopping in supermarkets, we get no choice to buy home-grown as these massive businesses want vast amounts and not just the produce of a few small farms.

subrosa said...

I think you're right Woodsy about fruit being picked long before it's ripe and then the skins treated. Just the other day I bought a lemon at the greengrocers. What a difference to the thick skinned ones bought in Tesco.

subrosa said...

Woodsy, thanks for the tip, but I don't put moisturiser on my knees. :) That where the problem is these days, I can't get up so well, but I've now got one of these stool things which may help. Really the answer is a hoist.

NikkiiH said...

The apples I get from my in-laws trees must be nuclear - they last for months after picking, well over 8 weeks. The sorry specimens in the local Co-Op can barely stay hard til I get them home. Apples of course ;)

subrosa said...

Nikki, maybe it's the type of apple. If left in the fruit bowl supermarket apples shrivel much quicker than homegrown right enough.

JRB said...

As you say SR -
Surely our schools should be teaching children the food and nutrition basics…

They should – but they don’t.
A whole generation has grown up thinking food is simple something that goes “3 minutes then ping”.

As an old wrinkly, a relic of a bygone era, I am still happy to go and dig up the odd neep from the sheep field. In fact I quite fancy neep ‘n tatties the night.

You may find this site of interest –

subrosa said...

Mmm John, one of my favourite meals neep and tatties or parsnip and tatties. In fact I've parsnips in the cupboard so that's an idea.

Thanks for the link. I wish we had less of the celeb cooks though and more of the 'mum' type of cook showing basic cooking.

If STV was brave enough to have a programme which showed women and men cooking in their own kitchens that could be less intimidating for those who have no confidence in cooking.

Joe Public said...

The article states ".....Dubbed "Eat In Season", the government hopes it will lead to people eating better food, saving money and adopting a more "sustainable" lifestyle choice."

But how? That article seems to me like the output from a desperate job-preservation employee. Very, very few people can nowadays survive simply on fish / meat / fruit / veg that is 'in season'. And the further north one lives, the more-difficult it will be.

In reality all food is 'in season' somewhere in the world. [Unless food-miles are reduced by forced-growing more-local to a particular market.]

subrosa said...

Auch Joe of course we can survive. I was brought up on seasonal food as were most of my generation. We ate what was grown locally.

They still can grow potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbages, broccoli and a long list of foods in the north. Where did you get the idea that someone in Wick can't grown veg? Fish is more readily available in the north and beef and other produce plentiful.

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