OPINION - Yes to turnips: we should embrace seasonal eating

 (Daniel Hambury)
(Daniel Hambury)

The crisis — or “crisis” — in the salad aisles of the supermarkets may go on for another three or four weeks, which is why the food minister, Mark Spencer, is meeting supermarket bosses today.

So, another three weeks when we can’t eat things we shouldn’t actually be eating. There was a time when it was terrifically classy to have hothouse fruits and out-of-season veg, for it showed you had gardeners and glass houses. Now eating cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes in February is a mark of shame. They have no taste and most are flown in. This, then, is a non-crisis which has raised a number of food issues.

One is the great turnip debate: was Thérèse Coffey doing a Marie Antoinette in telling Brits to go and eat turnips? Actually, there is a whole debate here, because as far as the Irish and Scots are concerned, turnip means what you call swede; either way, we’re looking at a really useful root veg, which when mixed with a little fat from cooking meat, or butter, served hot, is delish.

The other is the perpetual curse of the age, viz, the inability to defer consumption until it’s actually the right time to eat something. The stand-off between the National Farmers Union and the British Retail Consortium is to do with whether it’s cheaper to import salad stuff from Turkey, Morocco and Egypt rather than paying British growers to produce it in greenhouses that cost a fortune to heat. A fragile supply chain on the one hand, or expensive energy on the other.

It’s all our fault. If we didn’t insist on eating the same food all the year round we wouldn’t have this stupid crisis. The British food year is actually pretty rich. My farmer’s market is offering the following: beetroot, Brussel sprouts, celery, celeriac, cauliflower, carrots, chard, claytonia, fennel, herbs, Jerusalem Artichokes, kale, land cress, leeks, pak choi, parsnips, pears, potatoes, purple sprouting broccoli, red and white cabbage, rhubarb, watercress, radishes, spinach, spring onions, Tuscan kale, garlic. That not enough?

If it isn’t, there’s always tinned veg, produced locally. And it’s cheap.

If you’re throwing your rattle out of the pram because you can’t get what you want when you want, shame on you. Go and learn how to cook. Try The Reader’s Digest, The Cookery Year, a model of cooking with the seasons.