The planet is our home; we need to be more responsible. Here's what I do.
When we started to grow our own veg I began thinking more about where food comes from.
Presenting the latest member of our asparagus troop in the extended asparagus bed. I won’t be eating him just yet! Poor little fella!
South America seems to be a growing (tee hee) food producer. Often that’s where the blueberries and asparagus come from particularly in European winter time.
What’s also interesting is that blueberries, asparagus and rhubarb are unusual and often gourmet foods but can be grown quite easily.
It seems a bit weird to buy asparagus that was grown in Peru.
It’s best eaten really fresh, so how long did it take to get here and how was freshness sustained on the journey?
If it flew long haul then that sounds really bad to me. Was it packaged in inert gas to prevent further maturing?
It doesn’t say.
I get a major kick out of seeing our first asparagus spear poking it’s little green nose out of the ground. It’s one of the first things that’s ready and edible.
Often it’s surrounded by frosty nothingness. Even more often it looks rediculous. It’s a very strange plant. It’s the kind of plant that I think most people don’t realise grows the way it does.
I also thought that growing asparagus would be difficult. But now I know different. It’s takes a while to establish it but after that because it’s a permanent plant there are many others that require more work.
So I don’t buy asparagus from South America. I’d rather grow my own.
I’ve learnt that it has a six week growing season locally. It’s food miles journey is about ten seconds on some days as I tend to eat it raw!
Strangely enough, blueberries are one of the next things that I look forward to on the plot. Blueberries like a special type of soil. That sounds ominous!
I didn’t know this when I got our blueberries.
We have five plants in a segregated patch. So we dug out the normally sandy stuff and replaced it with rhododendron soil. Each year we add a significant quantity of dead leaves to mimic the soil in a forest. They only get rain water as there’s no other kind at the allotment.
The plants seem to like it.
There are five now because they each bear fruit at slightly different times. So that way we get a longer harvest of blueberries. They can also be grown in a large pot.
A complex aspect of this topic is whether food brought to Europe (or North America) from developing countries helps to support their local economy.
I’m concerned that in Kenya, for example, while jobs are created, food for local people is scarce. The water supply is also redirected to the growth of those yummy beans.
And ironically beans grow well in Europe, just not all year round. So seasonal eating is important too.
Food exploitation is a long standing industry. In Ireland, during the famine 1845-1851, when the potato crop failed, plenty of food was being exported to feed the Crimean War.
Meanwhile a million people died of starvation.
We do still need to buy fruit and veg during the year but when we do we think about the passport it bears.
Another key fruit for us is apples. European apples are readily available. The thing that I think about with apples is their normal fruiting season. They should be ready in late summer or early autumn.
And then they will keep.
For a long time.
Often with a bag of apples from far away they don’t seem to last long at all.
But then if they were picked in the autumn of a different part of the world and then travel by boat to Europe they will have spent their keeping season at sea. This is sometimes combated by packing in inert gas to stop the ageing process.
When the package is opened ageing atmosphere surrounds the fruit. Then the wrinkles set in quickly.
Eating foods that are grown nearby at their optimum time is also more rewarding with flavour and nutrients.
The blueberries are coming into bud now.
I can’t wait.
a blog by a multilingual expat-since-birth, linguist, researcher, mum of three, living in the Netherlands and writing about bilingualism, multiculturalism, parenting abroad, international life...