Spring is in the air. Warmer weather and longer days are just around the corner and farmers are sowing seeds for the abundance of delicious fresh produce to come over the summer. Although you wouldn’t know it from shopping at the supermarkets, this time of year is commonly referred to as the ‘hungry gap’, where across Britain our stored veg is diminishing and fields are not yet ready to harvest. That means that this time of year our locally sourced veg, including purple sprouting broccoli, spring greens, cabbage, and potatoes, is just too precious to waste!
Making meals from scratch using seasonal, locally grown veg is so much better for you, for our farmers and for the planet. But it can be tricky to think of tasty and nutritious recipes when you’re pushed for time. So, to help you do just that, we’re launching a new Veg Box Recipes page here on the Better Food Traders website. It’s filled with simple, satisfying recipes and meal ideas that focus on in-season ingredients. So, you can keep the whole family full and nourished while helping to support local ethical growers and traders that are working hard to create a more sustainable food system.
There are so many benefits to cooking from scratch, and even more so when you’re using produce that’s naturally and organically ripened, grown nearby and traded fairly. Here are just a few perks to home cooking with seasonal veg from your local Better Food Trader.
The produce is at its tastiest
The UK imports around 45% of its vegetables and 84% of its fruit currently, with most of it grown via the industrialised food system which favours uniformity, yield and shelf life above all else, including flavour. If you’ve ever plucked a tomato from a garden in the height of summer or whipped up a salad using the veggies from a local organic veg box scheme, you’ll have noticed that the freshness and flavour is incomparable to the produce you find in your local supermarket.
In-season fruits and vegetables that ripen according to their biological rhythms are harvested at the point when the natural sugars in the plants have made them perfectly delicious. And with a local, ethical traders, they’re brought to you as nature intended, never in a sealed bag of preservative gas like in the supermarkets. This means you’re eating them at their very best.
We’re creating an archive of recipes, searchable by vegetable, so you can celebrate zingy rhubarb in the spring, crunchy salad in the summer, sweet and satisfying squash in the autumn and the humble root vegetable on cold wintry days. Like watching a garden change with the weather, you’ll be able to take pleasure in noticing how the flavours and textures of fresh produce change with the seasons.
Seasonal veg is more nutritious
Studies have shown that when fruits and vegetables are allowed to ripen in season, their nutrient value is higher than that of plants that aren’t allowed to follow their natural growth and ripening path.
And this isn’t only related to imports. Fruits and vegetables that are grown in the UK using methods that encourage year-round availability are less nutritious than seasonal produce. They’re often treated with chemicals and artificial maturation processes that allow farmers to achieve higher yields and meet the demand for out-of-season crops, but this has been linked with a decline in vitamins and minerals, particularly Vitamin C.
So why not switch your supermarket-bought fruits and veggies for fresh, organic and in-season options—preferably grown as nearby as possible to bolster food system resilience, local communities and the environment—and benefit from all the health-boosting properties and added flavour they have to offer? Even in the depths of winter, you can knock up a quick and simple winter veg casserole and get your fill of vitamins and minerals while warming your cockles. We’ll have plenty of ideas to inspire you to try new things with the produce from your veg box.
It makes us more adventurous in the kitchen
When we have avocados, peppers, squashes and aubergines on tap, we can cook whatever we feel like on a whim. But when meal planning is led by what’s available to us rather than what we feel like, we have to get more creative in the kitchen. We try out new recipes that call for veggies we may have never heard of until they arrive in our veg box. How often would we Google meal ideas that call for kohlrabi, celeriac or ramsons if we were just shopping off the shelf?
There’s a lot of satisfaction to be found in making what you can of what you have. Seasonal cooking puts us in touch with our roots. It even encourages us to share old family recipes and bond over the delicious pies, puddings and stews our grandparents and great grandparents used to make. And, on that note, why not share some of your family favourites with us?
It’s better for people and the planet
The bottom line is that, if we want to safeguard our planet for generations to come, we have to move away from the culture of on-demand consumption we’ve become accustomed to. We need to honour the rhythms of nature a bit more and eat what’s fresh, organic and in season, it’s both healthier and tastier!
By cooking with seasonal ingredients provided by a local fruit and veg box scheme, you can contribute to the development of local, sustainable food networks that offer a more ethical and more robust solution to feeding the planet. You’ll be supporting regional growers and producers who use planet-friendly farming methods in finding alternative routes to market. And all by getting back in the kitchen.
Help us grow our Veg Box Recipes page by sending us your favourite meals, sides, starters and puds, and we’ll feature our favourites on the site. And, to get you started, fill your fridge with seasonal veg from your local Better Food Trader. We’re positive you’ll taste the difference.