Vegetable Shortage Crisis Tip Of The Iceberg

This week, much of the country has been focused on the shock of a vegetable shortage with rationing having been introduced back to Britain for the first time since the 1950’s.   In news that will send children across much of Northern Europe rejoicing, there is now a shortage lettuce, broccoli, tomatoes, courgettes and several other items that at this time of year are sourced from southern Europe.

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As usual, it is the weather is to blame in the Mediterranean and particularly south-east Spain which suffered from terrible flooding. In 2013, Murcia produced 370,451 tons of lettuce, and the year before that the region accounted for 74% of all lettuce exported by the country.

If the floods weren’t bad enough, mother nature wreaked further chaos on Spain and Italy with hard frosts and the most substantial snow seen in parts of Spain for decades resulting not just in the loss of one generation of crops from the floods but continued inability of farmers to get out on the land and prepare for the next crop.

Aside from the sadness for the farmers and others who suffered in the extreme weather, this is one ‘disaster’ that really doesn’t bother me in the slightest.  I don’t like Courgettes (Zucchini) or Aubergines (Eggplants) and though I have lettuce, iceberg is not for me.   Call me a little old fashioned but I actually like to have fresh, seasonal and if at all possible, locally grown produce.  If not in my garden then at least within a short drive of my home.

Of course this was the norm even up until the 1980’s and maybe that is why I don’t really worry about the vegetable shortage.  In the wider scheme of vegetables, there is no shortage whatsoever.  There is a shortage of summer traditional summer salad produce but there is absolutely no shortage of vegetables… my tiny vegetable patch is bursting with leeks, onions, cabbage and various root vegetables.  In fact snow and ice actually makes some of them such as parsnips, even more delicious to eat as the cold weather can make them sweeter.

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These days many consumers have grown used to expecting to purchase out of season items but I really think this is lazy, boring and bad for the environment.    I think it also shows a disconnect between people and the natural world and is symptomatic of the blandification and disposable culture seen towards food.

Perhaps for people working in offices in cities, they don’t really notice it is winter but why anyone in really cold weather would fancy having iceberg lettuce and courgettes rather than a warm, filling and much more nutritious stew of root vegetables or warm winter ‘salad’ with some kale and mushrooms is beyond me.  That’s even before the environmental impact of the food miles and the huge amounts of energy and resources spent on growing and transporting out of season food.

I think one of the pleasures in life is enjoying seasonal food.  I won’t ever have strawberries or raspberries in January.  Firstly they taste very substandard compared to fresh, local seasonal produce but I like the passing of the seasons and enjoying the bumper crop that comes into season before passing the baton to the next crop of fruit and vegetables.     There is a reason why they have strawberries at Wimbledon in June and July and they sell roasted nuts on the streets in December.

The lettuce and tomatoes in Spain have died because the plants don’t fare well with more northerly weather, which is precisely why traditionally, we don’t grow or eat them here in the winter just as having a giant roast dinner in mid-July is also less appealing.

British fruit and vegetable seasonal availability chart courtesy of New Covent Garden Market, London.

British fruit and vegetable seasonal availability chart courtesy of New Covent Garden Market, London.

I think having the same food every week or month of the year just makes it all a bit boring and bland.  As has been said before about eating at McDonalds, you know exactly what you’re going to get but it is never going to be the most interesting, most tasty or in any way surprising meal.

I know when I travel abroad I don’t want anything that comes close to resembling British food…. or American or European food… except for food from that particular European country.  Food can connect people to the local land and culture and I think that is the same at home too.   I’ll have my summer fruit in summer but for the next 2-3 months, I’m tucking in to the local, plentiful, cheap and very healthy season produce that can be both grown/harvested in the winter and does the job of filling me up on these dark cold days.

 

 

 

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About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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17 Responses to Vegetable Shortage Crisis Tip Of The Iceberg

  1. mycroft212b says:

    Exactly so! I think the panic buying, which inevitably sets in, is a nonsense too. How many courgettes can you store anyway!! We need to get used to eating seasonally again, who really needs green beans from Peru, apples from China, let alone the nonsense of asparagus being flown to Kenya just for it to be tied up with raffia!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I couldn’t agree more! It is the same whenever there is a ‘shortage’ of any food type or gadget or fuel but at least with petrol, some people do need petrol for cars. No one needs lettuce or courgettes, switch them for season food. Exactly, how many courgettes can one person or family eat? While the 3 or 4 slices I’ve had in my life-time are no big deal… I know if they ran out of apples, I’d switch to pears or whatever. Exactly, green beans can wait until July or August at which time I won’t want to eat winter cabbage, leeks or parsnips. It might be different if it wasn’t bad for the planet or even tasted half as good as local seasonal items. If all these mediterranean salads were out of stock until May, I wouldn’t even notice. Thanks so much for commenting 🙂

      Like

  2. Mel & Suan says:

    Actually we seem to be in the first innings of how climate change affect our food supplies. With the disruptive effects of the climate, it seems that we’d better take note if this will disrupt other food supplies too…

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Graham says:

    OMG…a shortage of lettuce! 🤔 Good grief. What is wrong with people? Panic buying lettuce? Really?

    As an aside, I recently started eating cabbage and broccoli (raw) instead of lettuce…and I must say that they make a salad much more tasty…plus a cabbage lasts for ages in the fridge.

    We’ve got so far removed from seasonality now. In NZ we recently had an apple shortage (first there were just pretty tasteless American apples and then none at all for a few weeks – the world didn’t end though) due to weather delaying the apple season…but you just need to get out of your routine and have something else. The seasonality chart you shared is a great idea…I might look one of those up for here.

    The problems will start when there are genuine food shortages due to over population. Then things will be truly desperate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know, it’s so pathetic. I have diversified too. In the U.K. Iceberg lettuce got popular for some reason but I actually find it the least appealing variety. I much prefer spinach or other green leaf salads and as you say, other foods last for ages.

      I’ve still got pumpkins I grew in the garden and picked before Halloween as well as other vegetables too and some of them aren’t even in a fridge.

      I’m sure they must have a similar chart with the reverse seasons for NZ. Also the seasonal food is cheaper too.

      It’s true. Even as it is now, it is crazy to have 65million or so people in Britain with half of them wanting to eat summer lettuce in mid winter. If there were only 6.5 million people then there wouldn’t be a problem even if everyone wanted one.

      We have snow forecast for the weekend so I’m thinking something more hearty than courgettes!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Joseph Nebus says:

    I’ve gotten to appreciate the values of a seasonal diet the last few years. Much of what I eat is stuff that could be made anytime, because a pack of flavored noodles is quick and can be made as good or as easy as I feel like. But having just enough that’s only had the right time of year makes that time stand out better, and somehow binds the taste of May to the Mays of other years. It gives time a link to something besides the calendar year.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think so too. I wonder if this is a problem exasperated by city living as many people aren’t even aware of what seasons really are and the impact they have on crops.

      I’m with you, just have a little of what ever is in season at each time of year and then you get get excited and really enjoy what you do have. I particularly like fresh peas or spring onions in the spring and early summer and then raspberries in July and blackcurrants in September. Then winter has its own delights, different maybe but much more satisfying than limp strawberries in January.

      Like

  5. dewyplace says:

    Your seasons are opposite to ours we get strawberries in Summer November/ December. I still see them now . At the moment our oranges come from the US as our orange season is in Winter in June/July.
    Not much apples in Winter here just oranges.
    One time we had a bad crop up north and bananas usually $2/kg got bumped to $18/kg . My kids wanted them and I bought a tiny amount for them to have as it’s expensive.
    Now they go brown and I have to freeze them for banana bread.
    I too eat seasonally as vegies are fresher and cheaper

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes our oranges travel a long way too at this time of year. I still have plenty of apples left myself from the garden, it’s amazing how well fruit and vegetables last if stored properly.

      That’s incredible about the price increase of bananas, luckily I don’t like them much.

      I am currently working through bags of dates. They are a Christmas tradition in Britain but by January, most people don’t eat them but they are one of my favourite fruits so I stockpiled them. They were out of date but very cheap. A month on they are still tasting good and as they come from poor countries I am happy to spend on them.

      It’s really strange how people buy food almost as a fashion and then stop eating it too for the same reason.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Virtual high 5 Stephen. I’m with you . It drives me madder than a hatter (ha ha a watford gag nearly) when folk expect strawberries in November etc. Seasonal homeland grown all the way!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Pingback: Olio – The Food Recycling App #zerofoodwaste | Stephen Liddell

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