food seasonal eating shopping sustainability

Seasonal eating – April

As a precursor to this month’s seasonal eating missive, there was an interesting piece in the paper the other day about the oversimplification of food miles.

For example, apples keep well in storage, which means that local English apples can be harvested in September and October, and enjoyed all year round. However, by the summer these apples have been in refrigerated conditions for so long that apples shipped from New Zealand would actually have lower carbon emissions.

It’s a similar story with lettuce. Lettuces are grown all year round in the UK, but the heating required for greenhouse-grown winter lettuce outweighs any benefit in short shipping distances. You’re better off with a lettuce from Spain.

In other words, local food is not a hard and fast guarantee of lower carbon emissions. For food to be truly sustainable, it has to be both local and seasonal.

To whit, April’s seasonal pickings:

To start off with a meat for a change, it’s lambing season. For many people lamb epitomises the evils of meat eating, but if you’re going to eat meat, lamb’s a good option in animal welfare terms. Because most lambs are raised outside and spend most of their short lives with their mothers, they have happier lives than most cows or chickens. Sheep can also graze on steep or marginal land that would otherwise be uncultivated, so it’s good in land usage terms too.

Over in the vegetable arena, April sees the arrival of some tasty spring salads in the form of radishes, watercress, spring onions and rocket. Good leafy green food. Spinach is back, and so are carrots. Cauliflower is still around, and you may happen upon some early asparagus. Purple sprouting broccoli is around too, and if that’s as foreign to you as it is to me, here are some recipes.

For dessert, get yourself some rhubarb, and look forward to some early strawberries by the end of the month.

For more, see Real Epicurean’s series on seasonal eating, or the BBC.

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