Here in the Northern Hemisphere we are celebrating the arrival of spring. Temperatures are rising and there is a general air of “Happy” around everyone. When it comes to food spring really is my favorite season. It even gives autumn a good run for all its variety. Probably because after bleak and somber winters, there is so much freshness around at this time of year that it is hard not to cave into the abundance and variety available at the markets.
We had some pretty high temperatures last week. Soaring up to 20C in mid-March is not very common but it did give the earth and the trees a big bloom. The weekend was a rainy one, which will result in green hills, wildflowers and a good kick-start for the farmers and their crops. The markets and the grocery stores have already started to stock up on some of my favorite spring produce.
“Eat seasonally!” is the loud cry from all of us food conscious folk! While a few years ago I was very conscious about buying organic produce only, it has over the years, given way to produce that is available locally, regionally – yes of course, but now my food choices are impacted by the sustainability of the food I buy.
Over the past years I have often found myself asking:
“When did buying food and produce become this complicated?”
Take Braeburn apples for example: they are in season from around October to April so right now you are sure to find them in abundance in your stores and if you live in a region where these are grown you’ll also have the benefit of sourcing them regionally like I do. The region of Germany I live in is quite fertile and we have a lot of apples. What I see however is that I can get my Braeburn apples, almost all year long. How can that be? Well after a little research I found out that farmers actually store large amounts of the apples in storage houses for up to eight months and the apples we are getting might not be those “fresh-off-the-tree” apples from this season but the ones that have been stored over the past several months. They are still fresh and taste absolutely perfect but it is not the picture we have in our heads of seasonal eating and of apples being plucked straight off the tree and into the market.
I just finished reading Jay Rayner’s “A Greedy Man in a Hungry World” and I still have to digest a lot of what he discusses, however I was quite engrossed to read that in the UK the same practice is applied by apple farmers there. This book has given me a lot to think about and as I take in all the aspects and topics he dives into, it will develop my perspective further on what I have always thought I was doing good with the food choices I make. I did not always agree with him but he presents well-balanced arguments and lays out facts for the reader to deduce for themselves and has certainly given me food for thought.
In our changing and growing world Rayner presents several controversial topics in the book, such as the positive side of genetically modified foods, the advantages of big agriculture, eating less meat, thinking on a wider scale due to the growing world population, and that sometimes it is more sustainable to get certain food items from far away countries because their natural environment allows them to grow better than in our own and trying to produce them here would mean leaving a much larger carbon footprint than having it shipped from that far away country. Rayner also unmistakably comments that “being obsessive about seasonality and perving over top-quality ingredients” is not as important nor is it the same as supporting sustainable agriculture.
Getting back to the topic of seasonality, I am not a radical food guerilla and although I carefully watch what is in season, I will also buy certain produce that is not – like the Braeburn apples in September. Produce like asparagus, rhubarb or strawberries that would not be sustainable to grow in any other season but in its own would not be put into my shopping cart for my home kitchen. Sustainability is the bigger picture and seasonality often means the pure excitement and joy of seeing the slender long green stems of the first green asparagus or the long stubby ruby red stalks of new rhubarb in the stores. Maybe Rayner will be rolling his eyes at my “perving” over these items but I will allow my occasional obsession and surrender to seasonal spring produce.
In my last post I discussed the food trends of 2014 and asked my friends and readers on Twitter and Facebook for their suggestions. Many mentioned grow-your own (Rayner dedicates a whole chapter for this) and seasonality as trends for this year. So this week I connected with my Facebook and Twitter friends again and asked them what their top 3 seasonal springs produce / food is. Here is what they said:
- Eve Fox of The Garden of Eating : asparagus, ramps, miners lettuce. Eve’s blog is a fantastic source of information and her articles on miner’s lettuce and harvesting ramps gives a detailed insight on both.
- Rosa Mayland of Rosa’s Yummy Yums: Asparagus, ramps and dandelion greens.
- Shiyam Sundar Corn, purslane, fava beans
- Erin Jimcosky of The Mutineer Blog: Asparagus, rhubarb, and young favas.
- Vijitha Shyam Asparagus, favas and of course corn.
- Marta Potoczek asparagus, fava beans, peas. Make sure you check out Marta’s incredible fava beans with chard and eggs on her gorgeous blog.
- Pille Petersoo my veggie queen of Nami Nami: Rhubarb, wild garlic/Bärlauch, green asparagus
- Tina Seidling of Lunch for One: wild garlic, asparagus and strawberries
- Kelly Peacock Wright of Sass and Veracity: Asparagus, ramps if I can find them, and artichokes!
- Sandy Neumann of Confiture de Vivre: wild herbs, aparagus and strawberries
- Soma Rathore asparagus, artichokes and strawberries
- @YarkhillFest got to be British Asparagus, Jersey Royals and the first forced rhubarb
- @capturebyst in our part of the world it's strawberries , kale and all kinds of mushrooms
- @lou31: broad beans, asparagus and wild garlic
- Rinku Bhattacharya Cooking radishes, spring turnips and asparagus.
- Kristen Dorn Kennedy Ramps, ramps, ramps!
- Lydia Walshin of The Perfect Pantry: asparagus, fiddlehead ferns, and strawberries
- Elle Baker of Feeding my Enthusiasms: asparagus, spring onions, strawberries
First a massive thank you to everyone who shared their thoughts actively and profoundly. I am trying to live up to my word for this year “Connect” through several channels and am thoroughly enjoying myself reaching out and interacting with my friends on various topics.
Obviously asparagus, fava beans, rhubarb and ramps are the most popular produce in spring for many. Do not forget the mighty cauliflower and the top trendy food 2014, which will be at its best in April. For those who are keen on eating more seasonally EatSeasonably has a great interactive calendar, which will guide you through the year on what produce is at its best.
Over the next few months there is a lot of great produce coming our way – from apricots, asparagus to morel mushrooms and ramps and from raspberries to blueberries and cherries there will be plenty to choose from. The talented Ren Behan runs a monthly seasonal food blog event called “Simple and in Season” and inspires us to use any ingredient in season and create a recipe with it.
I did not always like rhubarb. It was an acquired taste for me but as I started to cook and experiment with it in my kitchen I realized how versatile it is and the power it had to highlight sweet and savory dishes alike.
This brioche galette is a secret pleasure of mine. I love brioche dough – the buttery, sweetness is sinful. The recipe for the brioche base comes form Ottolenghi - The Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi - it always works. Here I have given it a bit of a remake and used it as the base for my galette, which is slathered in a creamy vanilla scented mascarpone cream and finally topped with poached rhubarb, mangoes and spoonfuls of tangy and sweet passion fruit. Enjoy it with strong coffee as a delicious end to a meal, or a special treat for breakfast. It also makes a great surprise at the Easter coffee table.
This delightful dessert probably best highlights my own nature and thoughts towards food and buying food in our current world. The rhubarb: very much regionally grown and in season, the mango and passion fruit produced by sustainable Fair Trade farms from across the seas. Making the right food choices is not difficult really … I just hope what seems right today will still be so tomorrow.
Venice Workshop Update
We have been looking forward to sharing some exciting news for all the participants joining us at the Venice Food Photography and Styling Workshop in May. Together with Nino Franco Prosecco we are holding an awesome photography competition exclusively for our Venice workshop participants.
During the workshop weekend we will be holding a special assignment which will allow the participants time to create and take a specific image for this competition ... the prize?
A spectacular weekend for two nights at the luxury Villa Barberina in the heart of the Nino Franco Prosecco walled vineyard in the town center of Valdobbiadene, Veneto, Italy. The jury consisting of the Franco family and independent judge, well-known wine blogger and photographer Andrew Barrow will select the winning entry. Details and submission guidelines for this competition can be found here.
We have only 2 slots left for this workshop. Interesting in joining us? You can register and read about what we'll cover on the Venice Workshop page
I have teamed up with talented photographer Simone Van Den Berg for this unique workshop in Helsinki, Finland.
We chose this location because our focus was to be on light - natural and artificial. As the Nordic countries have plenty of natural light during their long summer days but those shorter winter days provide hardly any light - taking photos under such circumstances can become challenging. If you are keen to overcome these challenges then this workshop is for you. Registrations are currently running and we have participants coming not only from Finland but from Norway, Sweden and Dubai. Details, programme and to register please see the Helsinki Workshop page.
You might like these seasonal spring recipes from What's for lunch, Honey?:
|Apricot and Pistachio Frangipane Tart||Asparagus Chicken Caesar Salad with Honey Pecan Nuts||Creamy Cauliflower Soup with Parmesan Cauliflower Crumbs|
All photographs and written content on What's For Lunch, Honey? © 2006-2013 Meeta Khurana Wolff unless otherwise indicated. | All rights reserved | Please Ask First