Call to buy seasonal produce to avoid ‘crisis’

Vic Uttley, from Rutland Roots
Vic Uttley, from Rutland Roots
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Farmers and producers in the area are disproving the belief that there is a vegetable crisis.

Bad weather in Spain has affected courgette crops and salads which are imported to the UK at this time of year because they do not naturally grow in colder weather.

Vic Uttley, who runs Rutland Roots, a local produce delivery scheme based at Zetland Plants in Burley Road, Langham, sources most of her fruit, vegetables, eggs, flour, meat, milk and honey from Rutland or the neighbouring counties and says that if everyone relied on seasonal produce, there would be no crisis.

She said: “There’s something really lovely about eating seasonally. It makes me look forward to the summer when I can eat courgettes as I know they’re at their best.

“Local, seasonal produce tastes better than imported vegetables that are available year-round.”

Vic has backed a campaign by the National Farmers’ Union to encourage buyers to swap their imported goods for their seasonal alternatives.

NFU’s spokesman, Alison Pratt, said: “It’s a fact of modern life that we, as consumers, have got used to having seasonal foods all the year round, such as salads, and fruit such as strawberries on the supermarket shelves.

“But our parents and grandparents wouldn’t have had those “luxuries”; they enjoyed the variety of home-produced winter vegetables that were available and probably grew their own, too.

“There are more than 20 different winter vegetables grown in this country, from cabbages, cauliflowers, carrots and beets, to swede, turnip, kale and parsnip; the variety and recipes we can use are almost endless, so don’t get depressed when you can’t find courgettes, choose British veg instead.”

The NFU suggests that courgettes are swapped for carrots, lettuce is swapped for kale, aubergines are swapped for leeks and broccoli is swapped for celeriac, their seasonal British counterparts.

Riverford Organic Farmers delivers organic produce nationally and grows produce at Sacrewell Farm in Thornhaugh. Founder Guy Watson said: “We need to relearn the potential of great British veg, and embrace seasonal British winter crops instead of relying on imports.

“A lack of lettuce isn’t a big deal. One of our most popular winter dishes in The Riverford Field Kitchen restaurant is our Kale Caesar Salad; it is always a hit with diners, who are rarely aware that kale can be a far superior substitute for bland salad leaves.

“In my experience, when I was growing for supermarkets, up to a half of all veg was often left in the field due to unnecessarily tight cosmetic specifications. We don’t believe in such needless waste so for example, we’re currently including undersized broccoli heads in our veg boxes, but just giving more of them. Because we grow, source, pack and deliver our veg ourselves, we have the flexibility to widen our specifications.”

With the growing season fast approaching, growers such as Rutland Roots and Riverford are starting to prepare their land and allotments for the Summer and the next wave of seasonal goods.

Vic added: “I know people think that eating seasonally can be boring, but there is such a wide variety of produce available, it’s not all kale and potatoes.

“My advice to buyers would be to make the most out of every season, buy British and enjoy what’s available. You’ll end up eating things that you’ve never tried before and enjoy it because it tastes better and is good for you.”

Vic works with Rutland Honey, Rutland Dairy, Whissendine Windmill and March House Farm to deliver local produce across the county. For more information search for Rutland Roots on Facebook e-mail info@rutlandroots.co.uk or call 01572 345328.