There’s Something In The Air (but is it Spring?)

by | May 4, 2023 | Food Facts

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The days are longer and lighter, the birds are chirruping and my husband’s hay fever is already making his life a misery. Sure signs that Spring is on the way?

Not so fast. Officially, Spring doesn’t start until March 20th, while the new asparagus shoots and tender lettuce leaves won’t appear until late May (the agricultural term for the period from March till April isn’t known as the Hungry Gap for nothing).

Right now, UK farms will have an abundance of seasonal cabbage, carrots & kale, potatoes, watercress and winter leaves- all of which appear proudly in our bags next week.Season’s Best

Citrus- it may not be grown here, but it’s citrus season in the southern mediterranean where we get most of ours from. For me, it’s like a little bright light in a dark season and I eat a blood orange every single day from mid Jan to March. Small pleasures. Natoora do them via Ocado if you can’t get them locally. Oranges and lemons are at their best.

And don’t save it for dessert- the people at Delicious mag have thoughtfully put together54 sweet and savoury recipeszinging with lemon, orange and lime and here’s a classic- Nigella’s Linguine with lemon, an easy weekend plate.

Lemons also work their magic on winter greens, who need little more than a drag around a pan in olive oil, lemon zest and maybe a bit of chili until glossy.Forcing the issue

Yorkshire forced rhubarb makes a fleeting neon pink appearance at this time of year, and I’m disproportionately excited about cooking up this Rhubarb and Custard Tart by Georgia Levy I saw on the ‘gram this weekend.

Nigel Slater’s recipe for Duck and Rhubarb Chutney is is divine, as are his other, less meaty recipes here.

Full disclosure- most of the time, I roast it, sprinkled with sugar, in a foil covered tray till soft and the juices sweet and caramelised. It’s then ready for spooning onto Greek yoghurt for breakfast, or siphoning off the syrup to make a Rosemary + Rhubarb Fizz.

Something for the Weekend

On the subject of cocktails, citrus is your friend. Most are based on the perfect balance of sweet and sour, the sour most frequently coming from the acidic notes in lemons, limes and grapefruit. If life is giving me lemons, you’ll find me in the kitchen knocking up a French 75– a sophiscticated glass of lemon juice, gin and champagne.

Love limes? Move away from the Mojitos and Mules to the more subtle Cosmopolitan and if you thought your tequila days were over, I implore you to try a Paloma. Grapefruit is tequila’s perfect partner, rounding out the harsher notes and delivering a bit of bitter sweetness.

See, cocktails are really quite good for you.

Wasting Away..

After last week’s news about Riverford stepping to save a potato harvest rejected by a supermarket, I thought I’d explore a little further.

It’s estimated that 3.6M of tons of produce is wasted before it even leaves the farm, largely due to the inflexible contracts and impossible cosmetic standards imposed by the supermarkets. So why do farmers put up with this? They have little choice- the biggest 9 supermarkets in the UK have a 94.6% share of the grocery market.

I know I’m always banging on about buying into a veg box scheme (here’s an idea of the best ones) but they generally:

  1. Pay the farmer a fair price for produce

  1. Sell what the farmer grows, not what the consumer demands (we’re not really ok with this in developed countries where choice is everything)

  1. Ensure the farmer does not have to overproduce (protecting the soil, keeping the price at a decent level, reducing waste)

Stir It Up is in its infancy, but my dream is to inspire local would-be farmers to set up knowing they have a route to market in us.But it’s not just the supermarkets that are a bit naughty, 6.7M tons (70% of all edible waste) is thrown away at home, adding up to an eye-watering £500 per family that’s literally gone in the bin, not to mention the impact of methane production the rotting food causes.

How to avoid it?

Here are my totally unscientific, works for me kind of suggestions (I waste almost nothing- a bowlful of salad was chucked this week and it very nearly reduced me to tears)

  1. Don’t buy too much in the first place

Sounds obvious, but it’s kinda the reason isn’t it?

  • don’t have an enormous fridge- you’ll buy more and waste more
  • shop online- you buy less. I routinely spend 3x more in store than I do online
  • always buy less than you think you need. Most of us have shops nearby and there are more 15 min supermarket delivery services than you can shake a stick at so there’s really no excuse

  1. Buy with meals in mind– have a few ideas of what you’re going to cook before you shop. It rarely works out 100% of the time, but it’s a start.

  1. Only ever have one bag of leafy greens at any one time, and be sure you have an idea to use them within 2 days of purchase. Ditto mushrooms. Most roots last a very long time. I’ve eaten swede older than my children.

  1. Storage- as SOON as you get your lettuce home, wash it, dry it and rehome it in a tub lined with paper towel- it will last for longer than you think. Stick herbs in water. Lemons and limes in the fridge. Be rational with best by/use by dates- if it smells ok, it’s probably ok.

  1. Use leftover rice for Nasi Goreng, in a little fritter or to pad out a soup. Cooked pasta (or rice) is tomorrow’s healthy salad (cubes of cheese, ham, cucumber, pepper etc with a bit of mayo). Chop up fruit to be frozen for a smoothie- this also works for cooked spinach, avocado and leftover coconut milk. If a lettuce is too limp to love, cook it gently in some stock and butter, add peas and you’ve got a delicious side (thanks Kate x)

Until next time.. Jacquie x