he internet is strange, strange place when it comes to diet policing. We think print magazines are odd – all those celebrity diets and green juice and hundreds of “detoxes” that are just starving yourself under a different name – but the end of this year’s Veganuary, and the backlash against it, have shown the world wide web to be much more bizarre when it comes to shaming people for their food choices.
The militant vegans are mad, basically, about people claiming to be “mostly” vegan, but still eating eggs. I’m not part of either camp, so can’t comment. It seems to me that the “mostly” lot are, well, trying to do better. Not perfect, but better. But I do find it strange that so many people who are vocally black and white about these issues, based on harm to animals and the environment, then fill their tummies and Instagram feeds with imported foods.
Eating in season at this time of year can be tough. When you actually read the labels in the supermarket, you notice that a high proportion of produce is shipped over from abroad. Sticking to British is easy in summer, when markets and shop fronts boast a plethora of locally-sourced fruit and veg, but as the temperatures dip, so too does the number of options we have. There’s nothing sexy about pears, no matter what photo filter you apply, and with the market dominated by a handful of apple varieties, it’s hard to get hold of the ones that thrive in these early months. Even services like Riverford, which does so well at finding and selling local produce, have to import some things. That’s the world we live in now.
But we can all do better, is what I’m saying. We don’t have to stock up our fridges with Argentinian blueberries and Egyptian strawberries. It’s too late now to say “Freeze your berries while they’re in season!”, but surely you can still support British fruit farming and have your favourite berries? So I looked.
As it turns out, only one of the supermarkets specifically sells frozen British fruits. The majority (Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsburys) source their fruits from various countries, while Asda lists the specific country (currently Poland for blueberries, Serbia for raspberries).
The one that does freeze British fruit? Waitrose. Of course, they’re more expensive*, although not by that much when bought on offer, but they’re considerably cheaper than their fresh, imported counterpart – and possibly even more nutritious.
In summary: yes, you can, er, have your berries and eat them.
*As a side note, when I checked frozen raspberries in particular, Waitrose’s essential range (not British) was cheaper than the other supermarkets’ offerings. Even Asda!
But anyway! Onwards, to the things we’re actually harvesting right now.
Okay, so carrots are constantly available, but February marks the end of their actual season, until June at least. Thought to have originated in Asia, the carrot, in its purple and yellow varieties, arrived in Britain in the 15th Century, when they were positively exotic. The now-humble vegetable will rub along nicely with a wide range of other flavours, from onion to anise, its cousin, and cinnamon to peanut.
- Venetian carrot cake by Nigella (gluten-free!)
- Roasted purple carrots with garlic and rosemary @ A Splash of Vanilla
- Puffed carrot casserole @ Martha Stewart
- Carrot fritters with cumin-lime cashew cream @ Oh My Veggies
- Raw carrot pasta with ginger-lime peanut sauce @ The Roasted Root
Chicory is a weird one – hardy and bitter, it’s not for everyone. That bitter crunch makes it work as something a little different in salads, but cooked or paired correctly, it mellows out. Mostly notably, a popular partner in crime for the chicory is cheese, with a classic dish involving blanching the heads, wrapping them in ham and covering it all in cheese sauce. On board, now, aren’t you? Find out more here!
- Chicken liver, chicory and pomegranate salad @ The Guardian
- Roasted lamb with figs, radicchio and chicory by Ottolenghi
- Chicory, orange and feta salad with mint @ RetrEAT
- Chicory braised in Meantime IPA with pickled peach @ Great British Chefs
I’ve collected rhubarb recipes before, here and here, but now I’m dating someone from the rhubarb triangle, I feel obliged to do it all over again. This time, though, I come armed with a new favourite ridiculous fact: Wakefield actually celebrates their rhubarb fame with the Festival of Food, Drink, and Rhubarb. That’s a real thing that people go to! Local events are amazing, but I’ll admit that I’m kiiind of curious about hearing that fabled rhubarb creak as it reaches ever upwards quicker than a 13-year-old boy in a growth spurt.
Technically a vegetable rather than a fruit, forced rhubarb has kept its legendary status even as its sales continue to fall, left behind in favour of more exotic imported fruits. We’re missing out, really, since it pairs up nicely with a variety of foods, including black pudding, lamb, and saffron.
- Rhubarb and pistachio blondies @ Amy Elizabeth
- Rhubarb and custard cakes @ Things We Make
- Rhubarb bundt with ginger glaze @ Tin and Thyme
- Rhubarb risotto @ The Flexitarian
- Rhubarb and saffron yoghurt cake @ Elizabeth’s Kitchen
WANT MORE? CLICK HERE FOR last february’s round up.
Image courtesy of woodleywonderworks/Flickr