Last week the UK was hit by the Lettuce crisis. The shortage of supply sent out a warning to some. I found it alarming when I popped into my local Waitrose to purchase what I always imagined to be consistently there on the shelf, Iceberg Lettuce. On this occasion, much to my disappointment, all I was greeted with was a customer notice reading ‘out of stock’… It ought to have displayed “romaine calm!”
Aside from lettuce there are other firm favourites also on the shortage list: courgettes, spinach and broccoli too. It got me thinking about how everyone has latched onto incorporating more plant based ingredients into their diets. Having researched this in panic mode, I was presented with the global warming crisis. Poor growing conditions in Europe – mostly Italy and Spain – has meant there is a lack of produce. This comes from a combination of flooding, cold weather and poor light levels. In winter months Spain’s Murcia region supplies 80 per cent of Europe’s fresh produce.
UK supermarkets are rationing vegetables as a result of poor weather conditions in Southern Europe. Britain’s largest supermarket chain Tesco has introduced a three-lettuce limit on icebergs and rival Morrisons has imposed a two-lettuce limit.
My cookbook My Relationship with Food was designed to educate people to eat seasonably, the cookbooks format inspires and enables people to eat seasonal produce. Each section of the cookbook from spring, summer, autumn and winter gives ideas on what to eat for breakfast, lunch, soups & sides, dinner and healthy treats, making the connection between the food we eat and the season in which it grows.
However, as we have become a more globalised nation, season specific foods are becoming a thing of the past. Everything is available all year round thanks to efficient shipping resources. This may seem like a good thing, especially when certain foods are required for healing purposes and eating healthy foods all year round is great for us but the extent to which we ship food across the globe means a lot is going to waste and they may no longer be as healthy as you think.
A great positive to eating seasonal foods is that they are full of extra nutrients that come as a result of them being more natural and fresh. They are grown according to their own time scale as opposed to one producers have dictated. This allows them to grow to their healthiest potential and we can get more health benefits when we consume them. On the contrary, growing foods selectively can be damaging to the environment as often they can be produced through genetic modification, thus making the food less nutritious. Always make sure you are purchasing your foods from organic farms where possible as this produce will always be much healthier. If your food is grown locally it requires less emissions to end up in your kitchen therefore it is better for the environment. It also takes less energy to grow foods in their natural climate so a smaller ecological footprint is created. It requires many resources to grow certain foods when they do not naturally thrive, and even more to ship these foods around the world.
However, the seasonal consumption of some foods is natural. For example, we tend to crave fruits and vegetables in the summer months when it is warmer outside and often turn to animal products or grains in the winter when we need something a little more satisfactory to keep ourselves warm.
Overall we can reap great rewards from enjoying seasonal eating, more so than if we produce and purchase products all year round. It can in fact provide us with more variety because when we are abiding by seasonal shopping lists we have a different list of delicious foods to choose from every month meaning you can switch up your meals easily and frequently to avoid getting bored with cooking the same dishes over and over again; you are handed new resources to get creative with in the kitchen!
Seasonal produce is great if you are on a budget. Prices go down when supply goes up so when foods are in season they tend to be a lot cheaper, if this is not a push factor to remain a seasonal eater I do not know what is!
So if you enjoy following my Lisa’s Tips, follow the most important one of all… Eat seasonally for a healthier, more nutritious lifestyle, not only for you but for the environment too!