Southern Spain and Italy have been in the grip of an unusual cold snap with snow falling on the beaches of the Costas. This has hit their market gardens, devastating production of salad crops and courgettes.
It’s a sign of the age that we live in that people have lost the concept of seasonal crops. In January there’s not a huge variety of vegetables available in Britain and northern European countries. Brassicas, root crops and stored root crops.
Anything else eaten was processed and stored. Bottled tomatoes, canned and bottled vegetables and fruits, salted beans and so forth. Later frozen foods became widely available and home freezers are found in almost all homes now.
Some vegetables defy us to store them so we can enjoy the summer bounty in mid-winter. 2 good examples are courgettes and aubergines. You can prepare and freeze them but with the best will in the world they’re not nearly as good – even for cooking – as the fresh produce.
The supermarkets offer us fresh vegetables that come from across the globe. Beans flown in from Africa, potatoes from Egypt, even fresh strawberries flown in from Mexico. Basically, whatever you want you can get, whenever you want.
So when the courgettes vanish from our supermarket shelves, there’s panic in the media. What a pampered, spoilt bunch we are becoming. It’s not the end of the earth that a couple of vegetables aren’t available out of season.
We enjoy courgettes to a degree, usually from the end of June through to October. The biggest problem is they’re a glut vegetable, we always end up with too many and when they finish we put the plants on the compost heap with a feeling of relief.
That’s without even discussing the morality of us flying in vegetables from poor countries and the effect on the climate of those air food miles after the hottest year the globe has had on record.
Perhaps I’m being a bit of an old crusty – but my reaction to people wailing about the lack of courgettes in the shops in January is ‘get a life’. Sorry.
There’s a chart showing the sowing and harvest times of vegetables in Britain on the site as a pdf you can download or easily print.