Tag Archives: Food producers
There is a school of thought that advocates eating seasonal produce , this is an interesting dietary and ecological idea. As it reconnects us with food and the land and alerts us to the reality that different crops such as pumpkins, are produced at different times of the year.
It also cuts down on the carbon footprint of importing and transportation. So for us in the UK, this represents a viable option.
We live in a temperate climate but with the assistance of technology; we can grow many exotic crops in the UK which would otherwise perish in the climate.
It’s easy to follow this in summer as we can feast on a wide range of fruits and vegetables. We can literally eat the rainbow with a broad spectrum of colourful fruit and vegetables as possible. Think strawberries, tomatoes, radishes, blueberries, summer leafy salads; but as we enter autumn, much of the more delicate foodstuffs start to disappear. This is when the roots come into their own, with carrots, beetroot, potatoes, swede and parsnips; as well as the leafy brassicas such as Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower and kale.
Going Back to Our Roots
And that brings us to pumpkins! It’s very nearly pumpkin time and luckily for those planning to spend hours of frustration carving a hideous and unrecognisable face out of a solid block of fruit for Halloween, the fruit is now well and truly in season!
Although the UK doesn’t have as much history with pumpkins as in the Americas, where pumpkins actually originated over 9,000 years ago, there is no doubt about the value of the fruit. In fact, worldwide, the production of pumpkins exceeds 27 million tonnes, with China and India the main producers.
Pumpkins are part of the squash family. When cooked, the whole pumpkin is edible from the skin to the pulp and seeds. The nutritional value is undisputed; a great source of potassium and beta-carotene, and containing minerals including calcium and magnesium, as well as vitamins E, C and some B vitamins.
Another root vegetable that has accelerated in UK popularity in recent years is the sweet potato. This is also about to come into season. With a creamy texture and sweet-spicy flavour, this food has become the norm on menus to replace the humble chip. And its nutritional value is also high, as it is rich in fibre, vitamins A, C and B6, and an excellent source of carbohydrates. There are two varieties and the orange-fleshed one is also rich in beta-carotene.
Other fruits and vegetables reaching their peak in autumn include apples, aubergines, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cranberries, dates, figs, turnips and marrow.
Pronounce It Keen-wah
October is harvest time for quinoa! Quinoa is fast becoming a staple food among vegans and vegetarians for its incredible health benefits. This is a bead-shaped grain with a slightly bitter flavour and firm texture, and unlike wheat or rice, quinoa is a complete protein.
It contains all nine of the essential amino acids and has been recognised by the United Nations as a supercrop for its health benefits from dietary fibre, phosphorus, magnesium and iron. It is also gluten-free. Initially grown in the Andes in South America, it was known for thousands of years as the ‘mother grain’. High in anti-inflammatory phytonutrients, it is potentially beneficial for human health in the prevention and treatment of disease.
All of the above-mentioned foods are now grown successfully in the UK. Once considered exotic and relatively rare, they are now acceptable commonplace foods. At the risk of mentioning the B word, who knows how self sufficient we will need to be in future? The rewards of a seasonal food supply are exciting, especially with the contemporary emphasis on health and environmental benefits. After all, variety is the spice of life!
There’s been constant activity in the global media over the past few years regarding climate change and the effect that it is having on the food we eat. We may be in danger of losing some of the food we are familiar with; due predominantly to the changes that are taking place in our climate.
This year, the British brassica has been affected by unusually heavy summer rains bringing flooding to the UK’s main growing region for cauliflowers, Lincolnshire. Elsewhere, the record-breaking heat-wave wilted fields of cauliflowers across the whole of Europe. This left a shortage in not only cauliflowers, but also cabbages, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
America’s organic apples, mostly grown in Washington State, are also in trouble. As is coffee, with at least three-fifths of current coffee species facing extinction, according to a recent study. More worryingly is the decline in wheat crops, a staple global food which is sensitive to temperature changes. Places like India could see a reduction in wheat harvests of between 6% and 23% by 2050.
Even the humble sushi roll is under threat. Japanese farmers are blaming warmer, cleaner seas for a decline in nori seaweed production. The nori production fell to its lowest level in 2018 since 1972, pushing up prices and decimating supply.
The 2019 maple syrup harvest has also been affected. According to The New York Times, 2012 saw production of maple falling by 12.5% overall due to an unusually warm spring. This impacts negatively on syrup production because the process depends on specific temperature conditions.
More recently, in 2018, production of maple syrup fell by 21.7% throughout Canada. The culprit was Canada’s warm weather during the winter with later than normal snow. Sugar content is determined by the previous year’s carbohydrate stores with sap flow depending on the freeze-thaw cycle.
The Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers has even had to tap into its strategic reserves this year to avoid any shortages or price spikes for maple syrup. Quebec has put in place additional harvest areas to meet with high demands, and they are now being used widely.
From High to Low
In Vermont in America, sugar maple harvest has witnessed a renaissance in the 21st century following decades of decline. The revival comes as many Americans are turning their backs on refined sugars for natural products such as maple syrup, agaves and honey. Production of maple is now one of Vermont’s pre-eminent industries. In 2018, the value of Vermont’s maple syrup production exceeded $54.3M. This accounted for 38% of the maple syrup produced nationwide.
Producers are doing what they can to avoid any shortages; such as collecting the sap later in the season and introducing technological advancements. These cut down on traditional collection using buckets and replace it with miles of vacuum pump-operated tubing.
As Keith Thompson of the Vermont Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation says: “It’s not just about keeping the individual trees healthy, it’s about keeping the entire forest healthy.”
The maple syrup industry is currently keeping abreast of the problem. It’s initiating solutions to combat the inevitable changes in climate. It urges other industries to follow suit in order for our favourite foods to remain available. At AC Services, we thoroughly commend that approach.
With chaos in the world of politics, rain toppling World Championship cyclists in Yorkshire and Japan upsetting Ireland rugby; it is good to have sensible regional food news for catering business in South West England and South Wales.
Wales has received a pat on the back from new Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers who recently toured South Wales. She discussed opportunities for Welsh agriculture as the UK leaves the EU with key representatives of the farming, food and drink industries. This visit coincided with the publication of the latest export figures for Wales. They indicate that £231.5m of produce has already been exported in 2019. This includes a 14% increase in Welsh meat compared to the same period last year.
Elsewhere, food and drink from West Dorset has been recognised for its excellence. The Taste of the West Awards celebrates the best products and establishments in the region. Finalists included Bridport-based Bayside Bakery for its salted caramel brownies and Cedrics at the White Swan in Misterton for its beekeepers orange and honey marmalade cake.
Curious Pig beech-smoked dry cure back bacon by the Curious Food Company made the finals; as did the Devon-based Salcombe Brewery, which won the best drinks category for its Island Street Porter. While West Bay’s Baboo Gelato was in the finals of the Producer of the Year category.
Also in the South West, Bristol-based Swoon is celebrating being awarded supreme champion of the Great Taste Awards. Great Taste, organised by the Guild of Fine Food, is the acknowledged benchmark for fine food and drink. It’s considered the Oscars of the food world. The gelateria serves a huge range of exceptional desserts including Neapolitan coffee, pistachio and hazelnut gelatos and its chocolate sorbetto.
Swoon’s nocciola gelato won over the judges, made from hazelnuts from a small property in Piemonte, a region of Italy. John Farrand, Managing Director of the Guild of Fine Food, said: “Simplicity has won the day at Great Taste again this year, rising to the top in a field packed with new concepts, innovative flavour combinations and products from every corner of the world”.
In North Wales, a micro-brewery with a range of vegan beers has also bagged one of the Great Taste Oscars. Dovecote Brewery in Denbigh produces exclusively vegan-friendly beers. These include Dove Down Under, a 4.8 per cent strength ale made with New Zealand hops. All Dovecote’s ten regular beers are vegan as are the 16 seasonal specials brewed. The brewing process adheres to the 503-year-old German Purity Laws, which insist that beer can only be brewed from barley, hops, water and yeast.
Finally, if you are looking for somewhere to go at the end of summer, try the Orchard Street Food & Craft Market taking place on Saturday 5 October and Sunday 6 October at Gloucester Quays. It features stalls and live music for all of the family by bringing the finest local food, drink, art design, vintage and modern craft all local to the South West.
AC Services Southern is always happy to share good news about food and catering companies in the region we serve. Look out for our next regional food news round-up for fresh ideas and successes.
The Speciality & Fine Food Fair celebrated a landmark birthday last week and the show provided a special 20th anniversary edition at Olympia, London. The event held between 1 and 3 September attracted over 10,000 visitors, food producers, exhibitors, speakers and VIPs.
The Fair has always had an excellent reputation as an environment to reach out and make connections with existing or potential new partners and customers. As a result, The Speciality & Fine Food Fair is eagerly anticipated by those involved in artisan and speciality produce. These include independent retailers, chefs, delicatessens, hoteliers, importers, restaurateurs, distributors and wholesalers. Each are given the unique opportunity to source, network and get up to date with the latest trends.
2019 saw nine Welsh artisan food and drink companies exhibiting under the Food & Drink Wales banner. The country has a long established status at the show for innovation and this year was no different. Halen Môn, the Anglesey Sea Salt Company launched DIY Brine kits for Christmas poultry. While Daioni Organic showcased its coffee range with 100% Fairtrade single-origin organic Arabica coffee beans from Mexico.
South Caernarfon Creameries featured its new handcrafted range of cheeses. These include Dragon Cavern Aged Cheddar with Penderyn Whiskey and Dragon Welsh Slate Cavern Aged Cheddar. The Parsnipship showcased its full range of vegetarian and vegan produce such as Glamorgan Crumble, stilton and spinach potato cake and tandoori mash-up.
The Welsh Government supported the nine companies to attend Speciality & Fine Food Fair in the dedicated Cymru/Wales Pavilion.
Seminars and Features
Elsewhere at the Fair, the Food for Thought speaker programme featured successful entrepreneurs and industry experts. Their topics covered sustainability, the reduction of food waste, customisation, plant-based food, fermentation and Made in Great Britain.
The Savour the Flavour live demonstration kitchen created dishes inspired by products from the show. The Fair’s portfolio director, Soraya Gadelrab commented: “Kitchens are so vibrant. It’s all about the taste and visual appeal of dishes so we’re delighted to translate this directly at the fair through the live demo kitchen…the Food for Thought programme offers an unrivalled insight into the latest trends set to influence menus, from fine to casual dining”.
In recognition of the expanding success of the booming drinks market, the Drinks Cabinet returned for its second year. This features luxury small and large batch spirits, beers, ales, wines and ciders, as well as the burgeoning low- and no-mixers and soft drinks sectors.
The Discovery Zone enabled visitors to find innovative brands created in the past three years. It included everything from antipasti to oils, seasonings, cheese and charcuterie, dairy and dairy alternatives and fish and seafood.
The Shop of the Year competition had a stand. It offers small independent retailers the opportunity to shine, with five main categories, namely delicatessen and grocer; specialist cheese shop; farmer owned farm shop; food hall; and specialist food or drink shop. There is also a Newcomer Award. Entries close on September 20th. So if you missed the Fair, there’s still time to enter the Awards to celebrate your success and generate more interest.
The summer is coming to an end and although we’ve had a blistering Bank Holiday, thoughts will soon be turning to the next major event in our calendar, the Big C. There’s even a Christmas tree up in my local heralding the start of the party season. Too soon, far too soon!
Meanwhile, the food industry is as busy as ever and more Bristol food producers are springing up offering alternative and sustainable produce. Farm Wilder is an excellent example of producers taking sustainability to another level. The company was set up in January 2019 in Bristol. It selects and labels the highest quality produce from the most wildlife-friendly farms. The rapid decline of the wildlife in the UK led the company to source the best produce from SW farms. It supports “farmers’ restoration of biodiversity and sequestration of carbon back into the soil.”
What’s in a Name?
The farmers producing Fritillary butterfly beef help protect Marsh Fritillary butterflies in Devon. These cattle are slower growing than modern breeds, but produce the tastiest and healthiest meat. Farmers producing Cuckoo beef help Devon’s cuckoos in Devon with native hardy cattle thriving on the meadows and moors.
Cuckoo lamb is also available, with the same aim as the beef. Grazing native sheep like Scottish Blackface, Welsh Black Mountain and Dorsets, maintain the habitat needed by cuckoos to thrive. All of the animals are pasture-fed feeding on a natural diet of pasture and forage such as hay in winter. They are less likely to suffer from disease and require little veterinary attention or antibiotics.
Bristol Community Producers
Once upon a time, Elm Tree Farm was used as an occupational therapy resource hospital farm. It now offers adults with learning disabilities and autism gain work skills such as animal husbandry, market garden, nursery or woodwork. With around four acres of growing land, including several polytunnels and an orchard; the farm produces fruit, vegetables, chickens and other livestock using native breeds. As the behaviour of the animals suits the landscape and the quality of the meat is higher. The meat is all slaughtered and butchered locally, then kept frozen and sold from the on-site farm shop.
Edible Futures was set up as a Community Interest Company, seven years ago. With almost 1.5 acres here and two 90ft polytunnels, fruit, herbs and vegetables are grown. The company sells around 50% of their produce directly to local restaurants. The rest is sold through a Community Supported Agriculture model called Salad Drop, where members get a small, medium or large share of salad once a week, delivered to one of three drop off points around Bristol.
Finally, if you are ever in need of goat, then Troopers Hill in East Bristol offers Street Group. This is a group of people who keep goats in the city. As well as female milking goats, the group have also raised male offspring; initially using them to clear overgrown allotments, then buying castrated males goats for conservation grazing on overgrown land to restore important habitat for wildlife. The male goats are then sold for meat.
Bristol food producers consistently offer variety and the new. Ideal for the catering businesses that AC Services Southern serves locally.
In a week that saw the highest temperatures ever recorded in July not only in the UK but in other parts of Europe, talk has turned to peanuts and other crops that might be at risk.
Global peanuts consumption has grown at the rate of 2.53% and expected to grow further during 2019-2024. China and India are the largest consumer and exporters of peanuts in the world, accounting for more than 36% of the global consumption.
But according to reports, peanuts might be extinct by 2030. The reason is that peanuts are considered “fairly fussy plants”, and need five months of consistent warm weather, along with 20 to 40 inches of rain. If there is not enough rain, the pods won’t germinate. If there is too much rain, the plants will wilt making the peanuts inedible. We know from America’s peanut production that droughts and heat waves can destroy entire peanut crops. With the weather getting record-breakingly warmer, this is a worry.
Last week, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands recorded their highest ever temperatures. Several cities in France broke previous temperature records with Bordeaux and Paris exceeding 40 degrees. Here’s the science: the latest heatwave has been caused by an omega block which is a high-pressure pattern that blocks and diverts the jet stream, allowing a mass of hot air to flow up from northern Africa and the Iberian peninsula.
All of this climate change is putting crops at risk in harvest yields worldwide. It’s not just the heat however, crops are affected by unusually cold nights, weeks with no rainfall and storm-driven precipitation. All of which account for up to 49% of yield losses for maize, rice, spring wheat and soy beans.
Extensive studies have been carried out in Europe, the US and Africa to measure the cost to the grains, pulses and tubers that feed 7.7 billion people. These now have the aim of isolating the factors within climate change that might affect harvests.
Researchers have found that the maize yield in Africa is in a dire situation. Africa’s share of global maize production is not large, but the largest part of that production goes to human consumption. When compared to just 3% in North America, it is clear why maize is critical here for food security. Consider also that in the UK and Europe, maize is a key foodstock for cows, milk and beef and so indirectly human consumption.
Crops at Risk
The climate is crucial to most growth with food items such as avocados and chickpeas needing an awful lot of water to be produced. 72 gallons in fact to make just one pound of avocados. More than 80% of America’s avocados are grown in California, where there’s a drought. Similarly, chickpeas need almost the same amount of water. Global production of these legumes has gone down 40-50% due to worldwide droughts.
And what about coffee? The unimaginable could happen. Most coffee comes from Arabica beans, which grow best between 64 F and 70 F. If the temperature rises above that, the plants ripen too quickly, which affects the quality of the yield.
The bottom line is that climate change is happening and will affect the food we grow and eat. The extremes of British weather over the last week emphasises our vulnerability and allows us to reflect.
A fun quiz to start this week triggered by the question what’s in season now. The answer is at the bottom of the page.
- Who represented Ireland more than once at the Eurovision Song Contest in the 1980s?
- What bird does anserine refer to?
- Which actor had the starring role in Walker, Texas Ranger?
- Finally, what one word links these answers? Read on for clues!
Now, what’s in season currently? It’s a good time for asparagus, basil and beetroot which are reaching their prime in terms of ripeness and taste. Carrots and courgettes are at their best over the next two months and we are beginning to see blackberries and blackcurrants ripen.
Artichokes and cherries are coming along nicely as are broad beans and broccoli, not to mention the seasonal favourites of redcurrants and raspberries.
One berry that may not be very well known is the tayberry which should be ready for picking by the end of July. Similar to the loganberry, the tayberry is a cross between a blackberry and a red raspberry.
Cone-shaped, it has a strong aromatic flavour and is named after Scotland’s Tay River. If you want to know what one tastes like, try Waterhouse Fayre who produces an amazing array of jams from hybrids such as tayberries, tummelberries and boysenberries. The berries are either grown on site or sourced from local growers in the South West.
Have you heard of samphire? There are two types of this sea vegetable – marsh and rock – but only marsh samphire is widely available. Marsh samphire has vibrant green stalks, similar to baby asparagus, with a distinctively crisp and salty taste. It can be used raw in salad, though it tends to be very salty so it is more often boiled or steamed for a few minutes.
But the good news is that it is now ready for consumption! Head over to Devon and visit Riverford if you want to buy samphire that has been grown in an organically certified Devon field that was flooded by the sea.
Finally, it’s what you’ve been waiting for: the great British marrow is almost ripe! Marrows are commonly cultivated in the British Isles but it is the marrow growing competitions that send people into a frenzy. The British record is held by a marrow that weighed 171lbs. By the way, the courgette is actually just an immature marrow. If you head to Dorset, you can find all sorts of vegetables, maybe not of record-breaking dimensions, at Wessex Plants (1988) Ltd, a family business supplying professional growers, mainly in the South West of the UK. The present range of plants includes cabbage, cauliflower, calabrese, sprouts, leeks, onions and purple sprouting broccoli amongst others.
- Johnny Logan
- Chuck Norris
What links them all? They’re all berries of course and with Wimbledon started, so has the season for strawberries and cream.
Healthy and sustainable food procurement is increasingly important and in the BANES region, they are taking it very seriously.
In 2017, the West of England Food Procurement Group was set up by four West of England local authorities including BANES. This has the aim of providing leadership on healthy and sustainable food procurement, catering and public health. The group works together to exchange information, share best practice and identify initiatives and actions; to support healthy and sustainable food procurement across the West of England.
And there are plenty of producers in BANES from which to choose in every food category. If you are looking for vegetables, try Plowright Organics. Mr Plowright started growing organic vegetables in 2000. He now runs a very successful veg box scheme as well as supplying wholesale markets.
At the end of last year, the company added an even more attractive item to its menu to offset the leeks, potatoes, carrots, onions etc. This is a fully compostable (plastic free) bag which is used to pack leafy produce. The bags are made using GMO-free starch from thistles, and will break down fully.
If you really can’t live without quinoa, then the Bath Farm Girls can help you out. A family affair, the company provides the local community as well as the British Quinoa Company. The farm also produces wheat, barley and linseed grapes. It also runs a Countryside Stewardship scheme developing wildlife habitat areas and pollen and nectar mixes across the farm.
Oils and mayonnaise are the specialities of Bath Harvest Oils, pressed and bottled with love in Somerset. The company produces numerous flavoured oils such as lemon and basil as well as the trademark rapeseed oil, which contains vitamin E and Omega 3. This is produced by cold pressing small batches of seed grown on the Wilmington Farm. The family has been farming for four generations and can boast that Bath Harvest Rapeseed Oil is a fully traceable ‘field to fork’ artisan product.
Grown Green is a double award-winning sustainable market garden, based at Hartley Farm in Winsley. Founded in 2010, vegetables, herbs, salads and flowers are grown following organic standards year-round in polytunnels, herb beds and fields.
BANES Cheese and Meat
Do you need cheese? Then try Homewood Cheeses based in Ubley in the beautiful Chew Valley. The company makes its own cheeses by hand with ewes milk from two Somerset flocks. Choose from Fresh Ewes Cheese (curd), Halloumi, Ricotta, Pickled Ewes Cheese (feta-style) and a family of washed curd cheeses including Old Demdike. Homewood can be found every Saturday at the Bath Farmers Market and on the first Sunday of the month at the Frome Independent.
Finally, Larkhall Butchers is a multi-award winning shop situated in the heart of Larkhall, on the outskirts of Bath. A well-stocked traditional butcher’s counter supplements a selection of cooked and cured meats, as well as fresh fish and other accompaniments. The butcher’s is famous for its own sausages made freshly on site, using pea flour as a substitute for rusks for a range of delicious 100% gluten free sausages.
And these are just a few of the local food producers that AC Services Southern found in the BANES region.
As a company focused on servicing and maintaining Rational ovens for all sorts of catering businesses; it’s not surprising we’re also interested in food sourcing and safeguarding the future. For many of our clients the choice of ingredients and being different is important. This is why the first UN study of biodiversity set our alarm bells ringing.
This warns of “humanity’s failure to protect biodiversity”. The Food and Agriculture Organisation issued the report and the findings are pretty stark. Over the past 20 years, around 20% of the vegetated surface of the earth has become less productive. In other words, our global capacity to produce food is weakening.
What do we mean by biodiversity ? According to definition it is the “variability among living organisms from all sources, including terrestrial, marine, and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part…diversity within species, between species, and of ecosystems.” On the David Attenborough scale of climate-changing significance, it is way up there.
The Decline of Natural Assets
Scientists involved in the report found evidence the natural support systems underpinning the human diet are deteriorating around the world. Factories, farms and urban infrastructure in particular, are capturing land and pumping out chemicals. This is leading to a debilitating loss in natural assets. These include forests, coral reefs, soil biodiversity, grasslands, and genetic diversity in crop and livestock species.
There is a reduction in the amount of species indirectly involved in food production. Examples of these are crop-pest eating birds and water-purifying mangrove trees. Pollinators are at risk, and they provide essential services to three-quarters of the world’s crops.
But if we are producing more food than ever before, as we are, how is this possible? The sobering reality is that we are relying on ever-expanding monocultures. Incredibly, two-thirds of crop production comes from just nine species. These are maize, sugar cane, wheat, potatoes, rice, soybeans, oil-palm fruit, cassava and sugar beet.
There are at least 6,000 cultivated plant species categorised as being in decline. At the same time wild food sources are becoming harder to find. Agriculture and urbanisation are taking much of the blame with habitat loss, pesticides, pollution, invasive species, pathogens and climate change.
Are We In Danger?
Is this overdependence on a handful of products a problem? Seemingly so, as the report cited the potato famine in Ireland in the 1840s; the 20th century cereal crop failures in the US; and more recently the losses of taro production in Samoa in the 1990s as examples of when overdependence can have a brutal impact on humans.
Even the Lancett has joined the crusade, stating that “our diets are the largest cause of climate change and biodiversity loss is now overwhelming”. The global food system is responsible for around 30% of total greenhouse gas emissions, with the livestock sector on its own accounting for about 14.5% of that figure. Its solution? Halve global meat consumption, and more than double the volume of whole grains, pulses, nuts, fruit and vegetables.
If that’s too radical, in 2016, another report suggested an alternative solution. “Possible policy options include better protection of natural environments and ecosystems, limiting the scope of intensive agriculture, and finding alternatives to pesticides.”
Last word goes to Michael Higgins, Ireland’s president. “Around the world, the library of life that has evolved over billions of years – our biodiversity – is being destroyed, poisoned, polluted, invaded, fragmented, plundered, drained and burned at a rate not seen in human history. If we were coal miners we’d be up to our waists in dead canaries.”
Food is seasonal and spring is the time for new crops to be harvested. There is an abundance of all-year round produce which we enjoy as part of our staple diets, such as potatoes, onions, beef, bananas, chicken and cabbage.
But some food sparks great anticipation. Not least in this category is asparagus which is coming in to fruition as we speak.
Around the world, we herald the arrival of this humble vegetable with excitement and even festivals. The British Asparagus Festival, celebrates the start of the asparagus season where a fleet of vintage cars takes the crop to its final destination from the Vale of Evesham.
From Asparagus to Lamb
Asparagus is the young shoots of a cultivated lily plant. It is one of the delicacies of the vegetable world although it is notoriously labour intensive to grow. French asparagus is purple, the British and American varieties are green whereas in Spain and Holland, asparagus is white. And as far as nutrition goes, all types have high levels of vitamins A and C, potassium, iron and calcium.
Other food coming in May includes strawberries, gooseberries, carrots and tomatoes. At their very best are spring greens, sorrel, peas, new potatoes, halibut, crab, rhubarb and of course, spring lamb. Spring lamb, also called early or summer lamb, is three to five months old.
Also keep an eye out for aubergines, the fruit that thinks it’s a vegetable and which has gained new interest with the vegan and vegetarian options now readily available. Although it is native to South-East Asia, it now grows all over the world with a huge range of varieties from the bulbous, glossy, deep purple zeppelin-shaped version to the scarcely-bigger-than-a-pea variety.
Fruit Picker Shortage?
Last summer, the great British farming community began to raise concern about fruit pickers. The majority of pickers come from abroad on a seasonal basis. In fact, according to the National Farmers Union, only 1% of the annual 60,000 seasonal farm workers are British. The industry relies on overseas labour which they worry will be deeply affected by Brexit. The vast majority come from Eastern Europe, particularly Bulgaria and Romania. With a stay of execution until Halloween, the farmers might breathe a sigh of relief for this year, but the problem still looms.
Last year, labour shortages driven by economic shifts affected strawberry crops in particular; with produce left rotting in the fields and hydroponic poly-tunnels. At the time, there was also a reported 30 to 40% shortfall in labour.
Some are campaigning for a seasonal agricultural workers scheme that could include countries outside of the EU. This would allow pickers to come and work for a defined and limited period of time as a solution. Or some maintain that the best way to avoid a crisis is to entice more Brits to work the field. The early hours, long days, physical toll and seasonality are offset by the joy of working in the open air and earning as much as you can pick.