I bought a cucumber and a bunch of grapes from the supermarket yesterday. The only odd thing about that is that I’d not done that since last September when they were in season. Nowadays, eating fruit and veg mainly from veg boxes and my allotment, such things are a rare treat, in this case an attempt to get my son to eat cheese sandwiches for lunch and a treat for my daughter who craves grapes when she’s ill. In terms of British eating season, we’re entering the hungry gap, when the roots all go floppy and start to sprout. I’m finding it hard to muster enthusiasm for cooking up, again, the swede, celeriac and parsnip in my fridge drawer. Yet, just in time, the greens are starting to come into their own and now every meal is green, rotating between chards, sprouting broccolis, various kales (this year I’ve grown Pentland Brig, Borecole and Red Russian) and the early pungent salads, a mix of rocket, lamb’s lettuce, dandelions, fennel leaves, various herbs, chives and young cleavers and brassica leaves, all coated with a honey and tahini dressing to offset the bitterness. The hungry gap means that the apple season is over, oranges from Europe have nearly finished and bananas are now a rare occasion in our fruit bowl. For the next two months, rhubarb is our main fruit and when strawberries arrive we will so very much enjoy them.
Am I a joyless self-flaggelating purist? No, on the whole – apart from, ahem, the roots - eating locally in season is pure pleasure, and the range of vitamins and minerals soaked up from our local, natural, unpolluted soil, water and sun are perfect after a long winter without sun, fresh local veg and exercise. Mankind has been finely, intuitively, tuned to nature for 80,000 generations, and just because one generation of Brits has bought the marketing message that supermarkets mean progress, doesn’t mean that it is so.