We grow 52% of our vegetables and 16% of the fruit we eat in this country. We have become accustomed to being able to buy any fruit or veg at any time of the year and it can be shipped or flown in from all over the world.
We haven’t got the climate for growing some varieties so if we want to eat them they will have to come from other countries. Some fruit and veg that is shipped in has a relatively low carbon footprint. This is because they grow in season, naturally in the country they’re in and the shipping is very efficient such as for bananas or oranges. But on the other hand, it takes 127 calories of energy to import 1 calorie of lettuce.
If we want to buy apples out of season, apples from Africa have a lower carbon footprint than apples that have been held in cold storage in this country, so it’s very tricky to know what the best thing is to buy without the right information.
The least damaging way of choosing vegetables to eat would be to buy seasonally, locally grown vegetables or to grow your own. We could then preserve some by bottling or freezing for other times of the year. Not many of us would be prepared to do that when we know we’ll be able to buy beans from Kenya in November.
It’s difficult to access locally grown fruit and veg in Seaford unless you sign up to a box scheme, drive to Kingston or travel to Lewes farmers market. Find out more. Let’s hope we get a local farm back soon!
There are so many fruits and vegetables that you can’t buy from the shops but you can grow yourself. www.chilternseeds.co.uk
Changing the way we choose what fruit and vegetables to buy is a change of mindset. There’s a recipe that needs courgettes in January or we have to have lettuce and tomatoes at Christmas so we buy them and don’t think about how they’re grown at this time of year because they’re available.
In the past people found ways to preserve foods to make them last longer, such as drying, pickling or canning. Now we can freeze a glut of vegetables and they will taste pretty much as good as fresh vegetables. Try chopping and freezing courgettes then cook from frozen. They will taste just as good as fresh. Frozen broccoli contains more nutrients than fresh imported broccoli.
Here’s a great guide showing the availability of UK grown fruit and vegetables from farms. This isn’t set in stone as the weather can change the growing season and some farms are investing in greenhouses.
If we do move to buying more UK grown fruit and vegetables (climate change and economic changes may force this), we need to think about how this will affect farmers in other parts of the world. We have a responsibility as a rich nation who have been taking from poorer countries for so long to ensure they are fully supported.
“Smallholder farmers are on the front line of climate change. They contribute to global food security and to their national economies, yet they are among the most vulnerable to climate change impacts. There is therefore an urgent need for large scale action to support these farmers to confront the challenges of climate change”
Lannette Chiti, Senior Climate Change Advisor, Fairtrade International.