I read something this morning that really made me think. It was lamenting the fact that our food is globally, intensively, mass-produced. There’s almost no sense of place to it anymore. If you landed from outer space in any country in the world, could you tell where you were by the food? You more than likely could in Italy, parts of Spain, France, South America but here?
In all the countries mentioned, food is inextricably linked to their very being, their culture, their life. But the more global our food supply has become, the more we’ve lost that sense of place.
And I’ve read all the articles saying we could, as a nation, feed ourselves sufficiently with dairy and beef, lamb etc. in the event of a global catastrophy but we’d be at a serious disadvantage for fruit and veg. Go into any supermarket now (even the high end ones) and all you will find is generic imported mainly from glass jungles in Almeria, Spain and mostly distributed through Holland.
It’s all very well to tell people to grow their own. But growing your own apart from a bit during the summer, takes a skillset and space. Most urban dwellers if they’re lucky enough to have a house spent most of their time working to pay the mortgage or the rent and tend to be time poor.
Markets are popping up in urban areas but in rural areas if there are any, there tends to be a dearth of growers. I’ve seen market stalls, farm shops etc. selling organic veg but it’s invariably imported.
Wouldn’t it be great to see farmers being encouraged to diversify into fruit and veg and given all the supports, incentives and financial aid to do so. And along with this build a local market where this produce could be sold. Instead we see government, farming bodies, farming advisory boards encouraging farmers to intensify, get bigger, spend more and lose control of their product the minute it goes out the gate.
I’ve been meaning to take four photos in my local SuperValu, one for every season to see the variation on the shelves but I’m fairly certain you could barely tell Christmas from Summer.
In a local market you would have apples in autumn, strawberries in summer, tomatoes in summer, root veg in winter, cabbage in spring/winter, asparagus in summer, beans/peas in summer. You could literally tell what month it was by what was in season. You’d have kohl rabi, celeriac, purple sprouting broccoli, kalettes, chard, multiple varied salad leaves (summer and winter), rocket, leaf celery, mizuna, artichokes, 5 varieties of kale, cabbage, parsnips, turnip, aubergine, courgettes. I don’t know about you but I have never seen chard in a supermarket. I asked for it once in a posh one and was told by the person in charge of the section they’d never heard of it.
Most people think stuff is in season all year round. In fact I don’t think they understand seasonality at all anymore. I see asparagus, green beans, strawberries from Nigeria or Nicaragua or wherever they’re imported from. They’re totally tasteless particularly the strawberries and for some reason tough but that doesn’t seem to bother most.
The joy of biting into a juicy, sweet Wexford strawberry in June is worth waiting for. Likewise the first Irish tomatoes that bring back memories of sandy, soggy sandwiches huddled in a windbreak after spending too long playing in the sea. You were starving and freezing and they tasted so good with a luke warm cup of sweet tea from a flask. Tomatoes I grew last year brought back this memory as I sat at the kitchen table eating them with Spanish olive oil and salt and I felt nostalgic. I hadn’t tasted tomatoes like that for such a long time. Back then presumably supermarket tomatoes tasted of tomatoes?
The purple sprouting broccoli in the photo above was the first I’ve picked this year. I was hoping to have it long before now having smugly planted some in the tunnel which grew huge, luxuriously green leaves but nothing else. I used the leaves as cabbage so not all was lost. The irony being that what I picked the other day came from plants that were decimated by caterpillars and I mean totally decimated.
I had chard all winter. In the veg garden it struggled a bit during the really heavy wind and rain as the stuff in the tunnel thrived. It really is the most versatile vegetable because it has the crunchy colourful stalks and the leafy green leaves. I have leaf celery in the tunnel and some that seeded itself outside. It has so much more flavour than the traditional celery only available to buy.
The plate above was mostly produced here. Pork belly from last year’s Oxford Sandy Blacks, veg from the garden picked minutes before cooking and wild garlic mash (the wild garlic from Tintern). I didn’t grow enough potatoes sadly but hopefully I’ll have more this year.
I would really love to see more markets in rural areas selling local, seasonal veg from local growers who are able to make a living wage. It’s fine and dandy if you’re living in Dublin, Cork, Limerick or Galway but in rural areas it’s a different story.
Wouldn’t be great if an alien landed in a local market in rural Ireland in May and they could not only tell it was May from what was available but they could tell they were in Ireland? It’s not impossible and it is increasingly likely that that’s the route we need to be heading not expanding/intensifying/exporting because at the end of the day none of us can eat money!
5 thoughts on “The Knowledge”
We are so lucky here in Bath, we have the oldest Farmers Market in the country which has a wonderful selection of LOCAL produce; we have a couple of traditional greengrocer stalls in town (ok they do have imported stuff but also home grown), we have several artisan bakers and some excellent butchers too. I think you would approve on the whole. We do try to buy seasonally as far as possible but have been known to weaken and this year I’m growing tomatoes, peppers and chillies but don’t have room for more; I haven’t tasted celery that tasted of celery since my Dad stopped growing it (earthed up with old copies of Farmers Weekly he kept specially) about fifty years ago. I’d love to have an allotment again but 1) I’d probably be dead before my name got to the top of the waiting list and 2) by then I wouldn’t be up to it!
Best Wishes Richard
On Mon, 10 May 2021, 13:33 Uppedsticks with Pigs, wrote:
> uppedstickswithpigs posted: ” Spring veg I read something this morning > that really made me think. It was lamenting the fact that our food is > globally, intensively, mass-produced. There’s almost no sense of place to > it anymore. If you landed from outer space in any country in the w” >
Bath is a place I really want to visit. So it doesn’t surprise me that it’s well served. Here we have great markets in the bigger urban areas but I’d love to see every small town have a market served by a local grower/growers.
The celery I grow is really leafy and has quite fine reddish stems. The stems are fine but as the plant ages they get woody. But the leaves are superb in soup and dishes you would usually add celery to. In winter here all celery is imported and pretty tasteless.
“Globalism” has taken away the old knowledge of eating seasonally. I have a local market that carries items from area farms but, they also have to cater to those who want what they want when they want it. I detest seeing strawberries from California (I’m in North Carolina…on the opposite coast) when they are clearly not in season here. They do, sometimes, carry strawberries from a farm close to our coast that grows what they term as “Winter Berries”…solar tunnel grown strawberries that aren’t bad. I guess the warmth of the coast and the solar tunnel brings them in early but, the good stuff doesn’t come in until May. Another thing that irks me is tomatoes. People want them year round and, unless you have a hothouse/greenhouse, you should wait for the season. I don’t want Florida tomatoes trucked up here. I’ll wait for my farms to grow them. Ditto apples and honey. I want apples from my own state (not Washington on the left coast, again) and I sure as hell don’t want honey unless it is directly from my area. The only thing I am flexible on is cheese. I love our local cheeses but, I have a particular soft spot for Swiss Gruyere, French Gruyere and Dutch Gouda with truffles…all raw milk. Do you know about the A2A2 thing with milk?
I love your photo of the Swiss Chard. Our market carries it (year round, unfortunately but, at least it is organic). We don’t get the purple broccoli variety here. I’ve never seen any.
I am also very fortunate to have farms around that are organic and/or naturally run (permaculture?) for their animals. We get a wide variety of beef, pork, lamb, chicken, bison and some turkeys, though finding a heritage turkey is difficult. I noticed at my most recent farm visit this past Saturday that he had duck for sale. I get duck eggs delivered every two weeks and they are so rich. We do not have anyone selling goose eggs or geese for meat.
My small town had two farmers markets for a long while. Then, “the covid” nonsense started. One group stopped it and did porch deliveries or farm pick-ups. They started back up a year later but, demand you wear a mask (and they are outside!). The other one was run off by UNC hospital because of “the covid”…also an outdoor market in their parking lot but, apparently, the hysterical hospital people thought the remote area of their HUGE lot with shoppers would somehow kill humanity. They haven’t reformed but, one farmer with a very large farm has invited many of the other vendors to his place. Hurrah for private property!
An Irishwoman is struggling with potatoes? Oh, dear. I’m suddenly reminded of the blight and famine. And, as much as I love my imported cheeses, I agree with you about less importation. Here in the states, we’ve had a few “issues” arise that make me thankful for local fair. Have you heard about our gas pipeline (from Port Arthur, TX to NY) that was hacked and the panic buying up and down the East Coast? Have you heard about a major bridge, going over the Mississippi River, that has a giant crack in it and a major Interstate will need to be shut down, both ways? Food prices are spiking. Lumber is thru the roof (no pun intended) and, housing costs & rent are ballooning. There is also a shortage of drivers of big rigs and the gas situation isn’t helping. We may be headed to less “global shipments” in the near future.
Margaret, as always, I look forward to your posts.
Where to start? I have read about A2 milk and I think it’s something to do with the fat content and digestivity? I think Jersey cows are A2 but I need to read about it again.
The purple sprouting broccoli is not the same as “calabrese” or the big green tasteless stuff that I really dislike. It’s only edible with cheese sauce. And it’s okay in soup with blue cheese but I rarely buy or eat it.
I see that monster Gates is buying up vast tracts of farmland over there. If he isn’t doing that for nefarious purposes I’ll eat my hat. He’s determined to reduce the world population (big investment in pharma/vaccines) promote lab food (that he’s invested in as well) and yet buying up land. Go figure. Hopefully his links to Epstein will be the ruination of him. There is very sinister stuff going on in the world now. People need to wake up.
Chard is a great veg because it is actually “year round”. Mine got a bit sad looking due to frost and wind but inside it thrived.
Here’s hoping people start to wake up and take back control of their health/food supply from big pharma/big food/corrupt billionaires/complicit governments/corrupt organisations. There are a number of scientists, doctors, investigative journalists beginning to and the momentum is building.
Keep the faith.