Rediscover the pleasures of seasonal food

A shortage of courgettes has been making headlines in the UK.

The heaviest rainfall for 30 years in Murcia, in south-eastern Spain, which supplies Europe with around 80% of its fresh fruit and vegetables through the winter months, has resulted in a severe shortage and increased prices.

Vegetables affected include courgettes, aubergines, tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli and peppers. Unprecedented, shoppers have been asked to limit their courgette and iceberg lettuce purchases!

Not affected are British grown winter vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots and parsnips.

An all year round supply, regardless of the season, has resulted in our supermarket shelves offering the same array of fruit and vegetables whether it be December or June, causing many people to lose track of seasonality. Our choices in the supermarket often show a complete disregard for what is actually in season. Many people have come to expect all things at all times and are missing out on the anticipation and delight of seasonal produce – the eager expectation of the first asparagus spears in April; the first fragrant British strawberries in May; the peas and broad beans of June; tomatoes, freshly picked and bursting with flavour. And courgettes. The best time to spiralise your courgettes is between June and October, when they are at their best in the British growing calendar, not in February!

Out-of-season shoppers are also missing out on flavour. There is no doubt that in-season produce tastes better. Fruit and vegetables which have been naturally ripened on the vine or tree, or freshly pulled out of the ground, bear no compare to imported, out of season, varieties which often have to be harvested early and go through certain processes to keep it fresh, which can result in a loss of flavour and texture.

In addition to the benefits of tastier, fresher, food, CCRI research has demonstrated for every £1 invested in local food, up to £7 can be generated for the local economy.

The cold winter months cry out for warming, hearty suppers prepared with local, seasonal, produce. Surely February is the time for thick soups, stews and casseroles, rather than courgette bakes and salads!

And in the meantime, we can look forward with anticipation to the fruit and vegetable delights of spring and summer soon to come.

CCRI has been involved in a host of research relating to sustainable agriculture, local food, urban food and food security. These can be found in our research projects section of our website.