Eat the seasons

Something I have done since  my eldest daughter was a baby is eat by season. My time working at Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming is probably where I first started. All the recipes on this blog use fruit and/or veg that’s in season.

There are lots of reasons for eating seasonal fruit and veg: reducing your carbon emissions, it’s cheaper, it tastes better, we need to support British farmers and it’s likely to have higher levels of vitamins, like Vitamin C compared to produce shipped/flown in from overseas. Have a look at the www.eatseasonably.co.uk for more info.

It’s not about abstinence but enjoying fruit and veg at its best.  It’s about connecting you with the seasons and where your food comes from. This time of year is a bit hard – I miss my salads and tomatoes, my eldest daughter misses strawberries and blueberries.* I know though as soon as those seasons come in we’ll be making the most of the produce they bring. 

With fruit this time of year, you don’t have to stick to apples and rhubarb. Buying fruit from Southern Europe, gives you more choice and buying kiwi fruit from Italy rather than Australia or South America is better for the environment. Bananas are a must have all year round too – always go for fairtrade.

I promise you, if you haven’t already tried eating seasonally,  I’m sure you and your family will grow to love it – give it a year and see. For information on what’s in season right now go to eattheseasons.co.uk  and like their Facebook page for recipe ideas and inspiration.

Navel oranges are in season at the moment …I cut some easy-to-handle slices for the babster but she went for the whole half an orange and tucked in, getting very messy.

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She’s just over a year now, and one of the ways I help her to feel independent and in control is by giving her choices, so I’ll put two types of fruit in front of her and ask which she wants to eat. Toddlers from around 18 months are learning to be in control and independent and they often do this by refusing food. One of the ways I get round this (hopefully – it worked with the eldest) is by giving choice.

I’m also buying organic kiwi fruit from Italy at the moment, I peel most of it and leave the bottom with the skin on to make it easy for my daughter to hold.

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Pomegranates are next on the list… highly nutritious and fiddly as anything – they should keep her busy for a bit …

*When blueberries, and other berries are in season, freeze some for Winter months as a treat, or you can buy frozen blueberries – they’re softer so easier for little ones to eat whole. For younger babies it’s a good idea to squish them rather than give them whole. If you live near Wimborne in Dorset (or are on holiday down that way) you can always go to Trehane Nursery and buy frozen blueberries or pick your own in July/August and freeze some. Or even better buy some blueberry plants from there, like I did.

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Rhubarb crumble with wholegrain spelt flour

The weather has been so grey and wet for weeks, so really wanted to make a comfort pudding after roast chicken for Sunday Lunch.

Apples are out of season now and of course soft fruits aren’t in yet, so rhubarb fitted the bill. I used spelt flour and oats, to add more fibre and B vitamins. Spelt flour, even though it does contain gluten, can often be tolerated well by people who are wheat intolerant. It adds a lovely nutty flavour to the crumble.

I made mine 1:1 spelt to white spelt flour which makes for a slightly lighter crumble. I have tried it with 100% whole grain spelt flour, which is denser, it worked – and was eaten happily by my daughter and husband without question or comment. I have made crumbles with 100% wholemeal wheat flour which doesn’t work as well as spelt flour which has a lovely nutty flavour.

You will need for 6 people…

Crumble…

100g organic spelt wholegrain flour
100g organic spelt white flour
25g oats
70g rapadura* sugar or other unrefined sugar
100g unsalted butter

Filling …
500g rhubarb washed, topped and tailed and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons of maple syrup

How to…

First pre-heat your oven to 190˚C (170˚C fan oven) / gas mark 5 / 375˚F.

Rub together the flour, sugar and butter with fingertips until it looks like breadcrumbs. Shake the bowl to get big lumps to the top and rub these in to get an even texture. Add in the oats and stir through.

Mix the rhubarb with the maple syrup so that its evenly coated. Put in a shallow ovenproof dish.Pour the crumble mixture on top and put in the oven to cook for 25-30 minutes.

Serve with custard or vanilla ice cream.

And after lunch…the sun came out for what seemed like the first time in weeks.

My blueberry plants are in bloom and attracting bees. Who’d have known they would be such a pretty addition to the garden…as well as, hopefully giving me my first crop of blueberries.

The bees had gone by the time I took these pictures, but they are so lovely I had to share them.

 

*Rapadura sugar is unrefined cane sugar. Because it is unrefined it still has some of the vitamins and minerals from the whole cane present – including iron and vitamin C. In fact a teaspoon contains 11% of your recommended daily intake of iron. Though of course it’s still sugar, it’s worth noting that white processed sugar contains no vitamins or minerals at all just sugar – empty calories.

Grow your own blueberries


These two little bare plants may not look very inspiring, but they are. Have put my money where my mouth is and bought a couple of local blueberry bushes from Trehane Nursery. These are 3-4 year old, and they might even give me some blueberries this year!

Lorraine at Trehane’s recommended I buy two, as while most blueberries are self fertile to an extent, some are not and all varieties produce better and more fruit if you cross pollinate between two different types.

So I have bought a Bluecrop which produces big and sweet fruit and should be ready for harvesting from the beginning of July. And a Chandler, which has similar fruit, and is a late harvester. Both produce heavy crops – great! She helped me choose two good plants that had lots of buds. They were £20 the pair (they are on special offer at the moment). You can buy them by mail order online or call Trehane’s Direct.

Apparently Grandfather Trehane was the first person to grow blueberries in the UK, in 1957 he sent his daughter, Jennifer, a telegram which simply read “1000 blueberries arriving Queen Mary, Southampton. How about it?” He was 1 of 4 people who responded to an offer from a parson in Lulu Island, British Columbia, Canada offering 100 blueberry plants for free to anyone in the UK.

I briefly met Jennifer when I visited the nursery, and as you would expect, she is very knowledgeable about her subject. She was expecting visitors from Devon who she was to advise on pruning. She has written two books on blueberries. One for the horticulturist, and one for me: “Blueberries, cranberries and lingonberries for everyone”. The Trehane website also has free advice on pruning.

Blueberries grow easily and well in tubs using ericaceous compost – or in acidic sandy soil.

The nursery has rows and rows of blueberry bushes to pick your own from in the summer.

In the meantime I bought 500g of Trehane blueberries for £4.

Can there be a better way to support local producers, and eat locally?

My blueberry plants will go in pots so that when we move they will come with us.

This is my new years resolution: to learn how to tend, grow and not kill my two new blueberry plants.

O and just in case you missed my plug for Trehane Nursery…

Right, am off to find out what Lingonberries are and um, ericaceous compost…