Eating seasonal

There are a lot of advantages to eating seasonally. Often it’s cheaper, it’s definitely greener and it gives you a stronger connection with the seasons. Finding out what grows seasonally where you are, and what comes in seasonally from further afield is an education in itself.

One of the big seasonal issues for me is whether or not I cook. During the winter months, hot food is very much needed – we walk for transport, are out a lot and hot food makes a lot of difference to comfort and viability. I can’t claim that I love cooking. I do it from scratch most days, and there are days when that’s a bit of a grind if there are a lot of other things that need doing. What’s been a real sanity saver this winter, has been the slow cooker. A few minutes of throwing in whatever’s to hand, a few hours of it chuffing along, and some kind of veg heavy delight emerges.

Now we’re moving into salad season. When it’s warm, there’s something delightful about eating raw; there’s a freshness and immediacy to it. Better still if the food has come out of local soil, but not having a garden, that’s slightly trickier to do. There is a local food hub here, and I’m exploring windowsill growing –I have a few herbs on the go, and may try a few salad leaves. We’re a good area for foraging because not only is there a lot in the hedgerows (I know where my sloes are for next autumn) but also community orchards. The idea of making food plants accessible has some currency round here.

I’m eyeing up places where gorilla food planting might be an option. It’s something I’d like to explore if I can figure out how to do it – using sites that were part of the railway line, so aren’t any kind of pristine natural space, and are publically accessible. I don’t know whether edible plants put out would be respected or not – the only way to find out is by doing – but the apple trees that have been planted have all been treated kindly, so I’m hopeful.

I look around at the open spaces, the vast swathes of useless grass where very little lives, and I wonder why we devote so much space to rather sterile ornamentation, rather than letting habitats establish, or using spaces to grow food. Edible plants are not ugly, although I prefer not to have them in rows. Why have we settled on an aesthetic where only that which has little or no practical use to us or other native inhabitants, is deemed attractive? Wouldn’t it be better if we replaced lawns with gardens and had freely available seasonal food?

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About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, wife to the most amazing artist -Tom Brown. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. View all posts by Nimue Brown

9 responses to “Eating seasonal

  • Léithin Cluan

    I have a big vegetable patch in my new garden, but it’s a bit wasted on me, as I’m not physically able to dig enough to plant vegetables. :(

  • paulaacton

    Sadly any veg we grow here has to be grown in pots as the soil is very heavy clay which shrubs seem to handle better but in some ways it ends u being the best of both worlds as the kids and dogs get to run riot round the garden and the veg grows in tubs, I am also lucky we have a very reasonable veg man who delivers fruit and veg including as much local produce as he can to the door, so we get a varied supply each week

  • Ziixxxitria

    I believe the idea of grassy lawns where nothing much happens came out of the era when most people had to work the land, either with crops or animals, and there were a handful of aristocrats who were wealthy enough to not. Having land put aside to grow grass, but not a crop, nor to be grazed on, was a sign of status because it was basically a useless luxury. That is what I have heard, anyway.

    As our climate changes and overpopulation increases, I hope that we will start taking advantage of our yards and empty lots and so on, before food becomes a more pressing issue.

  • godscall

    Absolutely agree that land set aside for grass and grass alone is a profound daftness – ask Peter Adams (Stroud poet) about his poem on the subject of the lawn for a laugh sometime – but I would like to sing the praises of our native flowers that are not edible but are beautiful and moreover, attract bees and other insects thus fuelling our all important pollinators. Food is a pressing issue, but all these species have as much right to the planet as we do. Many of these meadow flowers of course thrive on water meadows and also on hay meadows, part of the farming cycle in a mixed farm, feeding the animals there for the quadruple whammy (not all the same animals, mind) of meat/dairy/fabric/dung in both summer and, as hay, in winter too. So, if we eat less meat and dairy – less need for industrialised farming and emphasis on everybody’s quality of life: humans/non-humans – then perhaps we can retrieve these precious habitats too. And I like a few wildling places in amid the urban sprawl – like the wonderful burst of flowers as you come in towards Kemble station from Stroud at, I think, lilac time – if I remember correctly a potent mix of lilac and Queen Anne’s Lace… But making better use of the waysides is a great plan – certainly scavenged far more in e.g. Greece, where town housewives (older) go out of a weekend to scenic mountain towns or the seaside and gather ‘horta’ wild greens. THey serve them in restaurants, too – but rarely to non-Greeks, which is a shame as they are often better than the tired salata they usually serve. Okay – off plot now. Sorry – but a great thought-provoking blog!

    • Nimue Brown

      That’s a very good point! I’m very pro the wilder spaces, I’d love there to be more of those. Flowery lawns full of crawling creepy things and beloved of blackbirds are a whole other issue…

  • syrbal-labrys

    We have eliminated all but a tiny patch of grass around the outside table area. Of our half acre, it is pretty evenly divided ‘twixt herb, fruit, veggie gardens, space for the egg-laying pet geese, and then, of course, the Labyrinth. I think we will get a better chance at seasonal garden eating when my husband retires this fall and both of us can get into gardening in our short-season climate.

  • angharadlois

    Here in Liverpool, there are so many blank patches of scrubby green left over from terraces of houses that were torn down but never “redeveloped.” Some urban gardening groups, like Growing Granby, have done great work transforming these into community allotments (though unfortunately most of that great work takes place Monday – Friday when I can’t join in!). Other patches are less suitable for cultivation, but still a good target for some surreptitious sowing with wildflower seeds – check out http://www.wildflower.org.uk/ :)

    As well as getting back into growing food, it is really important to re-examine our notion of what “food” really is. I am a big believer in cultivating the sorts of plants that naturally want to grow in the environment your patch of earth provides. Most of the plants that will do best here are, basically, weeds – but many weeds are in fact edible and were eaten by our ancestors for millennia: things like dandelions leaves and roots, good king henry, wild mallow… all much better for the bees and butterflies as well!

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