musings in the mud

As the English asparagus season started in late April, I asked how you felt about us preceding it with Spanish asparagus from Pepe, a grower near Granada who we have worked with for many years. The results were two to one in favour.

Our mission is to enable and encourage you to eat well, affordably, with minimal environmental impact and hopefully some positive social outcomes, but without undue dogmatism that might drive you back to a supermarket. With diversity of opinion and eating habits this is a balancing act; it’ll be easier when we can offer a more personalised box (the ultimate aim of the ongoing website disruption).

So is local always best? If we’re just considering environmental impact, certainly not for out of season crops like tomatoes and peppers. Heating a single glazed glasshouse to 20˚C in January is as insane as airfreight and we don’t do either, ever. I’m also increasingly sceptical about growing crops outside their climatic comfort zone. It often involves enormous cost and effort to produce an unreliable harvest of dubious flavour. Interestingly, the first English asparagus grown in a cold spring, though fresher, was not as good as Pepe’s crop grown in the sun.

Don’t worry, we have not given up on local; these are the musings of a man who spent the day weeding a stunted crop of sweetcorn in the rain. If we are ever to eat truly sustainably we must learn from nature and make more of plants that thrive in our climate with minimal intervention. I am inspired by how happily samphire, ransoms (wild garlic), dandelions, wild strawberries, nettles, fat hen, chickweed, rose hips, elderflower, crab apples, summer purslane, damsons and sloes (all of which have largely unexploited culinary potential) grow in the wild. Agriculture sometimes feels like an absurd, futile and vain battle with nature; without access to depleting fossil fuels, we would always lose.

On a more positive note, we were delighted to be named Best Retailer at the Observer Ethical Awards 2013; many thanks indeed to all of you who voted for us.

Guy Watson

2 responses to “musings in the mud

  1. Congratulations on the award – very well deserved. Would be very interested if you offered purslane as a salad veg – I’ve grown it and found it very tasty and very handy, being a cut-and-come-again plant. I also like dandelions & nettles – so please feel free to diversify if necessary!
    Gwen Holmes

  2. Yes, many congratulations from Oxfordshire, too. I don’t think I would personally want to spend the time trying out new recipes for nettles, etc; my husband does most of the cooking and I know HE wouldn’t!). However, of course it’s a good idea for us to make the most of what grows easily in our climate.

    A special plea, Guy. I know you tried out DARK green veg on your customers years ago, but maybe people’s tastes have changed by now, what with TV chefs extolling the virtues of most veg. Could you possibly persuade someone with a couple of acres to spare to take a risk and try them again?

    Trish Stableford

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