Buying local produce should give you food for thought

PUBLISHED: 08:22 23 January 2008 | UPDATED: 14:41 07 September 2010

BY FRANCES BISSELL What sort of food will we be eating this year? My wish list includes fresher food with fewer food miles, which means more home-grown produce. My winter menus will include swede and curly kale, Yorkshire rhubarb and stored Bramleys inst

BY FRANCES BISSELL

What sort of food will we be eating this year? My wish list includes fresher food with fewer food miles, which means more home-grown produce.

My winter menus will include swede and curly kale, Yorkshire rhubarb and stored Bramleys instead of snow peas from Guatemala, asparagus from Peru and green beans from Kenya. Should we even be eating cash crops from drought-stricken regions?

Is it really a January treat to eat bland strawberries and peaches grown on another continent, picked under-ripe so they will get less damaged in transit?

Seeking out organic food where we can, or produce from reputable farms that practice sustainable agriculture - we can all play a part in raising standards in food production. At the same time, we can treat ourselves to long-forgotten quality and taste.

My New Year resolutions also include the determination to buy even more from independent shops and markets. Use it or lose it is no empty slogan. If we do not support our local shops, they will close. Rent rises beyond the dreams of avarice mean that proprietors have to increase turnover dramatically. Do we really want to see yet more mobile phone shops? If everyone were to buy just one more item every week (and preferably more) it would all help. Helen Sharman at the Rosslyn Deli tells me that her rent is about to undergo a huge percentage increase. Unlike supermarkets, which charge their suppliers for premium shelf space and negotiate large discounts, the Rosslyn Deli, as with most independent retailers, is not subsidised by its suppliers. Shops such as these also work with small artisan producers, who prefer not to supply supermarkets, so by purchasing one extra item we will be supporting small-scale producers who generally get such a raw deal from supermarkets. I know an ice-cream maker in the West Country who supplied one of the more highly thought of high street names for a number of years, only to be told suddenly that their goods were no longer wanted.

The supermarket in question had decided to make under its own label, having copied the original recipe.

We have already lost our butcher in Hampstead. Let's keep what we still have. We hear murmurs this week about whether the country really needs a farming industry. An unthinkable proposition. Eat more fish, too.

Support Hampstead Seafood and thus our dwindling band of fishmongers, our unhappy fishing fleet, and all those who encourage them to stay in business. As this part of our national life disappears, going the way of coal mining and ship building, we are well on the way to becoming a nation of supermarkets, service industries and theme parks.

Frances Bissell's latest book, The Scented Kitchen, published by Serif at £9.99 is available in all good book shops and on-line.



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