Wednesday, 18 July 2012
In praise of seasonality
When I arrived home yesterday my veggie box was waiting. It's a pathetic sign of age, I know, that I should find this prospect so exciting on a Tuesday evening. Every Friday I log onto the veggie box company's website to check what will be included and begin to plan the next week's meals around the contents. The produce they deliver is organic, but for me that isn't the great attraction. What I enjoy most about their deliveries is their seasonality and how the contents of the box change during the course of the year. This week it brought broad beans - one of my favourite vegetables. Their season is all too brief but I often wonder whether I would enjoy them so much if I ate them every week. Of course if I really wanted to I could buy frozen broad beans, but it just wouldn't seem the same. We are also eating sea trout regularly at the moment. This is a beautiful fish which is only available during the summer months. I look forward to its appearance at North Shields Fish Quay, usually in May or June, each one with its bright Environment Agency tag. Mackerel is also a fish that we eat regularly at this time of year: it is both delicious and cheap. And this morning we ate locally grown strawberries bought at the Grainger Market in Newcastle. They are very much a seasonal treat in our house, along with raspberries and other berries. I couldn't contemplate eating strawberries in December - it would feel quite wrong. But when September comes I will make the effort to go out into the countryside and pick some blackberries, because that's what you do in the autumn. I'm probably more obsessive than most people about seasonal foods. That doesn't mean I refuse to eat imported fruit and vegetables - far from it. But it would seem perverse to me to buy apples from New Zealand when English apples are in season, for example. And some produce - such as berries and sea trout - do seem to belong to the British summer, even when summer is as miserable as the one we are experiencing at the moment. Nutrionists urge us to eat a variety of foods and eating seasonally does seem to fit with this. Besides, strawberries wouldn't feel like a treat if we ate them every day.