I've been looking at the best websites for seasonal advice, and had really been favouring Eat Seasonably. It's colourful, easy to use and accessible, but it's limited in its range of fruit & veg and I'm not entirely convinced about its accuracy - Cucumbers in May? Really?! Instead, I think Eat the seasons and the BBC Food site may be good places to start. Both show you what's in season NOW, and what's going in & out of season, and offer recipe suggestions.
http://eatseasonably.co.uk · http://www.eattheseasons.co.uk · http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/seasons · My last reflection is a positive one. Having not seen much great seasonality celebration during the week, I went for the first time to the Tobacco Factory's street food market, held on a Friday evening. It was packed with families with young kids being entertained in the TF yard, or sitting out & eating at the picnic benches provided. One stall stood out for me. It was selling wild garlic pakora & roasted pepper & kale pakora - how Southville is that? We bought one of each and headed for a walk along the Avon tow path and then up through Rownham Hill to the bench at the top, where we sat and ate our wild garlic pakora, surrounded by blooming wild garlic.
I was going to write a nice post about the Farmers' Market and some new season vegetable treats, but pickings were slim there too, as well as on our allotment… So, instead, I thought about what we'd be eating now if we had to rely on traditional preserving methods. There is only so much pickled veg you can eat, so that probably means using dried. This is what we have in stock - dried peas & beans, and the last of our hazelnut crop. The volume of hazels which we get off our one tree, and after the squirrels have had their "share", is usually enough for one celebratory New Year's nut roast - so growing enough to be self-sufficient, seems impractical. Peas & beans however, can be quite prolific and if they're good climbers, then they take up relatively little ground space. Peas as a crop go back to the Neolithic, and dried peas made up a substantial bulk of the poor person's Medieval winter diet in the form of a soup/stew. We make them into falafel - which in honour of the pea, we call "piffle".
Last week I challenged myself as a newbie to Bristol, to do a food shop using JUST Bristol Pounds. This 'city specific' currency is wholly new to me and I find it fascinating.
What I wanted to know was whether the Bristol Pound (£B) is a thing designed to appeal to tourists or whether real Bristolians are using it for every day purchases. After all, if they are - this is a good thing - because more of the £B goes back into Bristol than the standard pound, thus, its supporting the local economy in a more effective manner.
I headed down to the Visit Bristol shop last week to purchase my pounds - all very easy - it was a straight swap, cash for cash. I asked the lady behind the counter who she's selling them to. She told me that they sell a lot of them to all sorts of people including lots of locals and definitely not just to tourists (despite there being a Japanese couple behind me in the queue who told me they were buying them as a souvenir).
Anyway, with my directory in hand, I headed out to buy some food. It was a small achievable list which was mainly vegetables with a few rogue items (chipotle chilli and tortillas) which I needed for a recipe I'm working on.
I spent a couple of hours walking from town up to and along Gloucester Road and as I went along, I was really impressed to see just how many places accept the £B either in cash or text form with big clear window stickers announcing that they accept the currency. I found that on Gloucester Road alone, there were numerous places - greengrocers, cafes, delis and international shops - where I could shop.
My favourite though, was back towards town. Bear Fruit, a pop up grocers in the Bear Pit and very convenient for home. I spent some time talking to the guy there, explained what I was doing and why. He loved it and told me how great he thinks the £B is. I picked up almost everything I needed that day with just a few items I had to resort to else where for.
My experience was wholly positive - it sparked conversations and made me feel part of the community. I'll definitely use £B again. They help the community and give you a sense of belonging which is greatly appreciated by me, a newbie to this great foodie city!
So thank you to the Bristol Good Food Diaries for welcoming me in and giving me the idea for this challenge! Nailed it!
Pickings are slim on the plot at this time of year. It really is the hungry gap, when last year's crops are bolting and sowings from the autumn or early spring are tantalisingly but not yet ready. At the moment, we have the last of the purple sprouting broccoli (it wouldn't make it into the greengrocers on size grounds, but we don't have to factor-in the labour costs of picking the stuff), plus we have the last of the spinach (which is desperately trying to bolt). We have some hardy overwintering lettuces which are either too bitter for the rabbits & pigeons to bother with, or like the Japanese Mustard pictured, they're a little bit too spicy for the native wildlife. We have some new growth herbs - parsley, parcel, fennel, sweet cicely, Greek oregano, sage & rosemary. But my favourite thing at the moment is the elephant garlic. You're supposed to grow it for its over-sized but surprisingly mild bulb, but we started growing it ornamentally for it's lovely tall allium flower, having seen this done at a garden called Sticky Wicket in Dorset. At this time of year, the elephant garlic stems are growing like miniature leeks, and as we've got so much of it, I'm cutting the stems to use as an over-pungent leek or a rather mild garlic. You couldn't really make a whole meal with these ingredients, but they're quite strong-tasting additions which can enliven some blander veg.
There are very slim pickings at this time of year when it comes to fruit that's genuinely in season. Apparently the UK strawberry season officially starts on 1 May, but I don't expect to see any on the allotment till June. Similarly, thoughts of other relatively early fruit - cherries, gooseberries & redcurrants - might as well be put-off for another month at least. We should have some harvestable rhubarb, but for some reason, it's got stuck at around 4" tall and is refusing to grow any further (can't say I blame it with the recent Arctic winds & pelting hail). And I'm refusing to pay Yorkshire forcing prices.
So, where does that leave us with any attempted seasonal eating? - probably with fruit that's been prepared and stored in some way.
Last year we invested in a dehydrator to process the deluge of windfall apples that wouldn't otherwise keep. The dried apple has been a breakfast addition since the stored apples ran out at the end of December. Verdict: it's better than I thought it would be! Today we'll also be eating fruits of the freezer - a mix of redcurrants, blackcurrants, raspberries & blackberries.
Hi everyone, My name is Alex and I'm a food blogger. Yes I know...another one.
I'm a Midlands girl who recently moved down to Bristol and after just 5 weeks, I'm already loving the foodie culture here. To find out that the Food Connections festival is happening soon was just another reason why I'm already falling in love with this city.
To really embrace Bristol life I've decided to do next weeks food shop entirely through independents and will only be paying in Bristol pounds. It sounds like a challenge but I've got sturdy legs and plenty of bags so I'm ready for it!
I'll be back on here diarising my experience next week! Wish me luck :-)
For Food Connections 2016, I'm going to explore what a seasonal diet might look like.
There has been household rebellion about the proposal that we ONLY eat seasonally (or to be blunt, concerns have been raised about the ramifications of eating too much asparagus in one week). So I can't promise to ONLY eat seasonal produce but I'd like to explore what an April-May diet might look like if we weren't dependent on vast Dutch & Spanish glasshouses to feed us. In practice, I think that'll mean looking at what might still be in the food store - dried, frozen, preserved & pickled things from last year's harvest - as well as seeing what can be bought that's UK-grown outdoors (or without extra heat & lighting).
I have two small children who are good at eating, it has to be said. From an early age I've encouraged them to eat what we do, to understand where their food comes from and to not dumb it down. We do treats but try and make them healthy, like these Chocolate Apples. As a result, I'm luck they eat a range of foods. However, they don't always eat the quantity of food I expect them to eat...hence, food waste is my biggest concern. What I put in their lunch box today will be scoffed, whereas I can put the same quantity in a few weeks time and the lunchbox comes back half full. But what can I do with half eaten sandwiches, yoghurt which has been left out of the fridge for over eight hours and sweaty cheese? The food waste bin beckons, and it frustrates me. However, there are things I can do either side of the which can reduce our food waste as a family. So I shall set down a family challenge, and update the Good Food Diaries as I go!
Food Connections flew by but I did manage to give my allotment quite a lot of love. Admittedly keeping the grass on the paths and under the picnic table down is a job in itself at this time of year...but we also got squashes and brassicas planted in, and dahlias and welsh onions a neighbour gave me. We have been protecting seedlings that are coming up (including spinach and amaranth, beetroot, asparagus peas, munchen bier, salads, kohl rabi, chard and brassicas) from the wind, rain and slugs..and from weed competition. Our indoor seedlings, including celeriac and purple sprouting are now toughening up outside a bit and we have built a mini cold frame in the garden for our tomatoes, tomatillos, mouse melons and chillies. I have even got round to reading up on succession planting and can add in a bunch more crops to my yearly planting plan. Everything is looking set for a productive year.
I confess...I haven't made it down every day. Well you've seen some of the wind and rain we've been having! I went down this morning to check on the seedlings I planted. The wind has pulled off some of the fleece I put over them but mostly they are looking good - not too wind swept or slug eaten, though some of the salads have had damage from what may be flea beetles. I have used bits of flexible plastic edging material to create rings around some of the brassicas and courgettes to give them a bit of protection against the wind. On the plus side the rain has made everything grow really quickly...my rhubarb is bursting out of the chimney pot I use as a forcer, all my early potatoes are up now, and seedlings are putting out their first true leaves (making it easier to tell them apart from the equally enthusiastic weedlings)