With food of every variety, season, cuisine and locality filling supermarket shelves nationwide, it is all too easy to turn a blind eye to where our food comes from, how far it has travelled to reach us and the processes it has undergone to ensure it presents well once it arrives.
In light of the recent BBC poll that revealed that fewer than 1 in 10 of us living in the UK are aware of which local fruits and vegetables are in season, we have put together a mini-guide outlining two of our favourite ways to be more mindful when it comes to purchasing our weekly fruit and veg. Take a read and see if we can inspire you to take a new food shopping approach.....
Whether you live in urban settings or the country, a little plant knowledge paired with the will to try something new can introduce you to a whole new eating experience. Tied to the seasons, wild food foraging is a great way to keep up-to-date with seasonal fruits, nuts, vegetables and herbs and enjoy the localities and settings in which they thrive.
How to get started: Before heading out on your wild food foraging escapade some planning and research is required. We suggest reading up on the subject using a guide such as The Forager Handbook by Miles Irving (Ebury Press). This resource is dedicated to providing useful and easy to digest info on Britain’s edible plants. Additionally, partaking in one of the foraging courses that take place in and around London will provide you with the required tools to make foraging a regular part of your eating experience. Both Robin Harford and Forage London host walks and workshops in London parks to introduce you to the fascinating world of edible plants, where to find them and how to use them.
What’s in season now: If you do decide to get out amongst nature and experience the wonders of wild food foraging, now is the perfect time to do so. Autumn provides an abundance of fungi, nuts and fruits, below we have compiled a list to what to look out for this season
- Nuts Acorns, chestnuts, hazelnuts, beechnuts and walnuts
- Fruit Crab apples, elderberries, guilder-rose berries, hawthorn berries, rose hips, rowan berries, wild service berries, whitebeam berries, sea- buckthorn berries, sloes, wild damsons
- Leafy greens Garlic mustard and bitter cress
- Edible seeds & spices Fennel, alexanders, hogweed, black bindweed and knotgrass
If you can’t get outdoors foraging then stocking up at your nearest Farmers Market is the next best thing. With an abundance of local, mostly organic and seasonal food available, you can ensure that the produce on offer is of much higher quality and nutrient density than what you’d find in your usual grocery store aisle due to the short transit time from crop to table - remember fruit and veg begin to lose their nutrient density immediately after picking or harvesting so the longer transit time they face, the less nutritious they become!.
Here in the UK we are lucky to have access to a whole array of Farmers Markets certified by the Farmers’ Retail and Markets Association (FARMA) providing heritage fruit and vegetable varieties that change alongside the seasons - offering us the highest quality produce for prices that are often much cheaper than supermarket produce.
By shopping at these markets, not only will you be treating your body to nutrient-rich produce, but through supporting local farmers you are encouraging sustainable methods of food production whilst increasing farm incomes – three great benefits in one!
Here’s what we’ll be stocking up on at our local farmers market this Autumn:
- Fruits Blackberries, blueberries, plums and Bramley apples
- Vegetables Courgette, runner beans, cabbage, marrow, kale, squash and spinach
So whilst its hard to eliminate the 'far-flung' fruits and vegetables from our diets completely, if the bulk of what your are eating is local and seasonal, you are consuming what we think is the highest quality food, supporting the local farming industry, treating the planet nice, and aligning with the seasons - just as nature intended. Save the tropical fruits and vegetables for consuming occasionally - as the treats they are!
Image: 1875 Foraging plants. Available to purchase.