Editor-in-Chief, Olivia Bybel, Gets the Juicy Details on our Fruit and Veg
Do you remember that heavenly weekend of sun this month? I sure do. It made the sting of hail all the more cruel in the following week. Our ‘false summer’, as it is now dubbed, reminded me of something even more special than sand, surf, and the smell of coppertone sunscreen… summer fruit.
I can picture it now. I am home for the summer, standing barefoot in the kitchen. Sun streams through the windows on every side of me, it is so bright that it feels as if my house were built on the sun rather than under it. The sky is so blue it almost hurts to look at. There is a nectarine in my hands, which I am preparing to eat over the kitchen sink. It’s huge and ripe, Its skin stretching taut and shiny over its unbruised flesh, almost glowing from within with reds and oranges and yellows that bleed into each other. When I take a bite, juice runs down my face and hands, into the sink. It’s just marvellous. In a few minutes I have devoured the whole thing. I drop the fleshy pit into the trash and rinse my hands under the tap. I rinse off my face for good measure. After the sweet nectarine, the water tastes tangy. In this moment, it truly makes sense that Nectarines are named for the food of the gods.
Of course, the sun is fleeting, especially in Scotland, and we now find ourselves thrown back into more typical weather to our little seaside town. Similarly, my memories of Californian summer produce grow dimmer every day, and with my first summer spent in the UK approaching, I have to admit, I am scared. The produce here is unfortunate to say the least. I do not know how you are all getting your five-a-day. After four years one would think I would be over it by now, but I am not, and I feel persecuted every day by the fruit and veg section of Tesco. Enough is enough, I thought to myself one day after biting into a mushy grape, I must know what the problem is. Half of them might be spoiled – and so am I. Sure I am, I grew up in a paradise of produce and spend a small fortune every week that I am home on berries, apples, stone fruits, and citrus oh my! How can the same fruit, say, a nectarine, be soft, sticky, and juicy on one continent, and on another be hard, pitiful, and dull. Where did this sad, sad fruit even come from? According to Tesco’s website, a yellow nectarine to be bought at their establishment is the product of: Argentina, Chile, Egypt, France, Greece, Italy, Morocco, Portugal, South Africa, Spain, USA, Zimbabwe. If you are having a hard time imagining one nectarine, or even a three pack, travelling from 12 separate countries, you are not alone. In comparison, 95% of the United States nectarines are grown in California, so the hundreds I have eaten over my kitchen sink did not travel very far to get to me.
As it turns out, most of our produce is not grown in the UK, according to the National Farmers’ Union, Britain buys 84% of fruit from overseas, with 19% of imports coming from Spain. Meanwhile 45% of vegetables are imported, mostly from the EU. Relying on foreign countries for food has its risks, however. In March of 2022, Britain found its produce supply delayed by strikes in Spain. Lorry drivers participated in industrial action over rising fuel costs, leading to empty shelves in the UK. An agreement signed by the Spanish government on March 28 to support lorry drivers with rising fuel costs will hopefully mean a return from delays in produce delivery, and therefore an improvement in the quality of fruit and veg. Even so, my issues with produce predate Spanish industrial action, and even the Covid-19 pandemic.
I took to Google, as I always do in times of distress, and believe me the aforementioned grape was distressing. One Redditer admonished me for my curiosity. Upon clicking on a link to a page on “Why is the quality of British produce (fruit and veg) so poor this year?” I was told (I read) “Well it isn’t. I, like others, had no problems at all, other than everything is a little later this year because of the weather.”
Yes, it is shocking. Firstly, wouldn’t everything being late qualify as a problem? Imagine if your copy of The Saint was several days late this week. I can only imagine the devastation that would incur. Secondly, what is this person even doing on this Reddit page (forum?) if they have no complaints about produce? I digress. Aside from this person, there was helpful information shared by the Redditors such as, wet winter, too much rain, supply chain issues (whatever that means), covid (always), and strikes (typical!). And although bad produce, and food generally might be the british blight, there may be something to do about it. It may be time to return to my roots, as unintentional as they might have been, and start eating local. Local produce doesn’t have to travel as long, so it can often stay a day or two longer on the vine, often giving them a better taste. For your convenience I have compiled a list of seasonal produce grown in the UK.
Apples, Artichoke, Beetroot, Brussels Sprouts, Carrots, Celeriac, Celery, Chicory, Jerusalem Artichokes, Kale, Leeks, Mushrooms, Onions, Parsnips, Pears, Purple Sprouting Broccoli,Red Cabbage, Salsify, Savoy Cabbage, Spring Greens, Spring Onions, Squash, Swedes, Turnips, White Cabbage, Radishes, Rhubarb, Sorrel, Watercress.
Artichoke, Asparagus, Aubergine, Beetroot, Blackcurrants, Broad Beans, Broccoli,Carrots, Cauliflower, Cherries, Chicory, Chillies, Courgettes, Cucumber, Elderflowers, Gooseberries, Kale, Lettuce, Marrow, Morel Mushrooms, New Potatoes, Parsnips, Peas, Peppers, Radishes, Raspberries, Redcurrants, Rhubarb, Rocket, Runner Beans, Samphire, Sorrel, Spinach, Spring Greens, Spring Onions, Strawberries, Summer Squash, Sweetheart Cabbage, Swiss Chard,Tayberries,Turnips,Watercress.
Aubergine, Beetroot, Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Blueberries, Broad Beans, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Cherries, Chicory, Chillies, Courgettes, Cucumber, Damsons, Fennel, French Beans, Garlic,Gooseberries, Greengages, Kale, Kohlrabi, Leeks, Lettuce, Loganberries,
Mangetout, Marrow, Mushrooms, New Potatoes, Onions, Parsnips, Pears, Peas, Peppers, Plums, Potatoes, Pumpkin, Radishes, Raspberries,Red Cabbage, Redcurrants, Rhubarb, Rocket, Runner Beans, Samphire,Samphire,Sorrel,Sorrel,Sorrel,Spinach,Spring Greens, Spring Greens, Spring Onions, Strawberries, Summer Squash, Sweetcorn,Sweetheart Cabbage, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes, Turnips, Watercress, White Cabbage,Wild Mushrooms,
Apples, Aubergine, Beetroot, Blackberries, Broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celeriac, Celery, Chestnuts, ,Chicory, Chillies, Courgette, Cucumber, Elderberries, Jerusalem Artichokes, Kale, Leeks, Lettuce, Marrow, Mushrooms, Onions, Parsnips, Pears, Peas, Potatoes, Pumpkin, Quince, Radishes, Red Cabbage, Rocket, Runner Beans, ,Salsify, Savoy Cabbage, Spinach, Spring Greens, Spring, Summer Squash, Swede, Sweetcorn, Sweetheart Cabbage, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes, Turnips, Watercress, White Cabbage, Wild Mushrooms, Winter Squash
There are numerous other benefits to eating local besides fresher produce. Local produce is often more nutrient rich than its imported counterparts, as fruits and veggies begin to lose their vitamins and minerals as soon as they are harvested. This is especially important in the cases of Vitamin C and antioxidants. Produce that hasnt had to sit very long in transit has less time to lose its nutrients.
Purchasing local food also benefits our environment. Cutting transit means cutting carbon emissions, which can only be seen as a benefit. Additionally, local produce often needs less processing and packaging than other produce, so shopping local can also mean cutting down on personal plastic waste. Supporting local farmers also supports the pollinators who live off of the plants and the ecosystems they belong to. Save the bees!