If you’ve been following my @annafranceshealing page on Instagram recently, you will have seen a lot of lifestyle focused posts around the baking and cooking that I’ve been doing recently. The truth is, I love to cook, I love to bake, I have always been creative with ingredients, and where they are from and how they are produced is becoming almost as important to me, if not more so, than what I do next with them in the kitchen.
Since I started getting fruit and veg boxes delivered to my door from Riverford organic farms a year or so ago (a lot of their produce are from farms in Devon, relatively local to me in Bristol, South West England) and Abel and Cole, I suddenly started to take more notice of the food. The lack of plastic packaging (and introduction of home-compostable packaging), the mud left on their leaves, the seasonal varieties, the notably better flavour, the notably not that different price tag to that of the supermarket (for fruit and veg, anyway). To a certain degree, the ‘lack’ of variety (although there are always lots of different veg boxes to choose from, it’s not always as easy as choosing individual items, although you can with a lot of them), meant that suddenly my kitchen was filled with some fruit and vegetables I’d never encountered before.
A persimmon… who knew?
A cape gooseberry? Same to you, thank you!
Romanesco… I’m still in awe of the beauty of that vegetable!
Purple carrots… ???
It’s been a learning curve, having such an abundance of (often local) seasonal fruit and veg, when previously at supermarkets I’d always felt very disconnected from the production process, and found it slightly alarming how every vegetable looked identical and…often shiny. I also sense organic farming is still an ‘experiment’ in some ways, trying new methods to make things more sustainable, and I think Riverford’s online publication Wicked Leeks does help a lot in sharing agricultural news that may otherwise not be on my radar.
When buying organic, there’s also the obvious benefit of less chemical fertilizers in the soil, less in the crop and therefore less in my diet and less in my body. From a health benefit perspective, I’m sure I’ve noticed a difference since I’ve predominantly shopped organic produce, and I can’t ever imagine going back for both health and environmental reasons.
It has taken (and is still taking me a while) to swap all my stock-cupboard goods to organic, and shopping at Abel and Cole have helped a huge amount, although I do notice a slight price increase, I always think it’s worth it in the long run.
With the recent demand on initiatives such as the veg box initiatives provided by Riverford since the pandemic, the amount of stock, predominantly produced by small UK farmers, were for a time put under strain, although Guy Singh Watson, founder of Riverford, has said that despite the increase in organic consumption in some areas, the growth rate in the UK as a whole is ‘disappointing’ in a time of climate crisis.
I’m fascinated to see what happens next for organic farming in the UK (and elsewhere), and I’m grateful every week when my organic fruit and veg box arrives. After cooking a lot of the same meals for a long time when I used to shop at supermarkets, food has definitely become more creative again, and I’m feeling all the better for it.
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