Emilie Woodger Smith explains how she is eating seasonally and upping her game
I was lucky enough to get an allotment just before lockdown hit the UK. It has been my absolute saviour and a place I love to spend hours sowing seeds, planting out and harvesting fresh produce.
Growing my own food has given me such an enormous appreciation for the food we see on the shelves. So much time, effort and energy goes into growing it. It’s really quite astonishing.
On the plot, the majority of my spring and early summer is taken up with sowing and preparing the beds before planting out (after the last frost has passed) and waiting through summer for the plants to grow, mature and a good crop to form later in the year. It could be months before you harvest your first veggie when you are growing food naturally and with the seasons. Owning an allotment gave me a real insight into when different fruits and vegetables are in season and when they are ready to be harvested.
We are so used to seeing our supermarkets full to the brim all year round, giving us a false impression of what is abundant and what is growing. The way supermarkets are able to achieve this is by shipping and flying food in from all over the world, where growers are pushing the limits of what is possible with artificial inputs such as heating, lighting, pesticides and fertilisers. This method of intensive growing uses huge amounts of energy and water while depleting soil quality and biodiversity.
Recently, I have been voting with my feet and buying more local, seasonal food as well as continuing to grow my own. Seasonal plants are more likely to be grown in the field as they are getting everything they need to grow well from the weather and the soil, making it much less energy intensive. Local food also has to travel shorter distances to get to our shelves, meaning less fuel and definitely no carbon-heavy airmiles. And it costs about a third less than food grown out of season and imported.
If you’ve ever eaten a freshly picked strawberry in summer and shop bought strawberries in the middle of winter, you’ll know there is a taste difference between seasonally grown and imported produce. The plants are less stressed and are able to ripen naturally, giving them more flavour and retaining more nutrients.
By now, you’ll no doubt be on board with the reasons why we should be eating seasonally and locally. But where do you start?
- Firstly, be in the know. There is a fantastic calendar online at eatseasonably.co.uk that shows what is in season and when in the UK. There’s also a great app that I use called Seasonal Food Guide.
- Next, make a plan. I like to spend an hour or so with a big cup of tea to plan out my meals for the week, making sure they’re as seasonal and low waste as possible.
- Get out there and start shopping. Farmers markets are my favourite way to buy local produce – the veg is as fresh as can be. It’s also a great opportunity to speak to the growers – are they farming regeneratively and organically? A veg box delivery is also a brilliant option.
You could also try your local fruit and veg shop. Check the labels or ask where the produce is from though, as sometimes imported produce is snuck in to fill the gaps.
You are unlikely to find local food at supermarkets, but look out for the GB flag on packaging and check the country of origin labels before buying.
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