VAL BOURNE’S GARDEN WILDLIFE
Why local produce is better for you and the planet
I’M not sure whether you remember a series of adverts, from a few years ago, that went along these lines: “This is no ordinary asparagus – this is flown in from Peru. These green beans have been hand-picked in Kenya…” and so on. Everything sold by this chain seemed to have been jetted in from some far-flung place and that was supposed to make us all go, “Wow! That’s special.”
Well, it made me cringe because the air miles involved do the planet no good at all. Worse still, many countries growing this fresh food for us are rather short of it themselves.
Of course, I’m not immune to foreign food. I love oranges, for instance, and we can’t grow them here. I love almonds too, so my cupboards do contain a few things from far-flung places. However, most of the food I eat is seasonal that I’ve grown myself, or someone else has grown locally. In winter, I’m content to eat my stored winter squashes, dig up my parsnips and carrots, pick my brassicas, wash my muddy potatoes and prepare the leeks.
A few years ago the Best Beloved, in need of something to do on a harsh winter’s day, decided to tot up the pound miles in our Sunday lunch for eight. That’s the miles taken to move one pound of food. The pork came from the local butcher, but was from a Gloucester Old Spot on Adam Henson’s Cotswold Farm Park, which is only four miles away as the crow flies. However, all meat in this area has to travel to an abattoir and back, which is some 20 miles away, and that gave it a tally of 52 miles per pound.
The vegetables were grown by us and one pudding consisted of stewed fruit that included frozen raspberries, redcurrants, blackcurrants, cooking apples and gooseberries from our fruit cage. (Needless to say, we didn’t feel deprived without asparagus flown in from Peru). There was some butter, milk and flour involved in making the white sauce for the leeks.
I managed to ruin it, though – I always do – by making a Bakewell tart with Californian ground almonds. That amounted to 2,100 miles when the flour, sugar and butter were added in. In one swoop our pound miles went up to 3,300.
On his next trip to the supermarket the Best Beloved calculated the same food (leeks, pork, butternut squash, kale, potatoes and so on) bought at the supermarket. It came to 19,000 miles and was bumped up by a winter squash from Morocco.
“The air miles do the planet no good at all”
Squashes can be stored for use during winter Grow your own fruit and use it fresh or frozen
Cavolo nero or ‘Italian kale is a great winter vegetable