S4 E9 – Is eating seasonally worth it?
It can be really difficult to keep on top of what’s in season and even more difficult when you realise it might actually be more economical to eat veggies from further away! Baz whips up some *ahem* delicious smoothies to taste this week and the boys discuss some of their fave London spots.
Best soundbite: “The day you get EBBERS tattoed across your chest is the day I hand in my notice…” – Ben Ebbrell
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S4 E10 – Is MSG not actually bad for you?
There’s a load of negative stigma attached to the consumption of MSG (Monosodium Glutomate) which is a naturally occurring flavour enhancer that’s usually used in take-away foods. But what if we were to tell you it’s not actually bad for you? In this episode the guys delve into the subject and see if they can taste the difference between a normal dish and one where MSG has been added.
I live in a semi-rural area of Pennsylvania where we have a lot of farmer’s markets. I have to admit I almost never think of eating seasonally, with one very glaring exception: sweetcorn. A lot of farms nearby produce it, and during summer (especially late summer) the sweetcorn I can get is cheap and literally sweet as candy. However, as a result I am a sweetcorn snob and outside of certain months/contexts I will refuse to eat it. The methods used to get sweetcorn to me (either at the market or in a restaurant) in November, for example, mean the texture suffers pretty badly even if the flavor is ok (and usually OK is the best you can expect).
I almost never got local strawberries as a child, and as such my experience with them is mostly as sour, watery things. As such I tend not to care for them even now unless they are processed into something like jam.
Farmer’s markets near me are generally pretty cheap. I think part of the difference is how close you actually are to agriculture: Michigan farmers markets do tend to be quite affordable, even in Detroit proper. However, we’re also one of the largest agricultural producers in the US for a wide variety of products (cherries, apples, etc). These also tend to be markets with a strong Community Supported Agriculture system.
very interesting what Ben said about the British tomatoes vs the Moroccan ones and what is the overall impact/benefit.
I think doing some “best of” in other cities would be awesome
I’d have never thought about it like that before so it was such a shock! Definitely worth a look in to and seeing if the same applies across different fruit and veg too.
It would be cool, considering the global reach you guys have, if you could put together a list of “seasonality” for the major regions in your fan base?
I love how Barry always says that Uk strawberries are the best in the world 😂 they are some of the most watery ones I’ve tasted (even living there for long periods of time). But as a Dane I might be biased since we have the best conditions for strawberries, apples and peas (long summer nights being one of them).
You can def get a good strawb in UK! Saying that, I’ve not tried Danish ones…
Mostly, this is another podcast where I find myself sitting here wishing I could be in the room with you having this discussion, asking follow up questions. Which is why I love this little forum.
But also, have you considered doing a livestream podcast, maybe for members only, where we can ask questions, interact? Don’t know how well it would work logistically, but it would be heaps of fun if it did!
A livestream would be awesome! No idea on the logistics but I’ll take a look in to it. In the meantime, follow the guys on Twitter, they’re gonna start asking for help with the next season of podcasts soon so it’ll be a great way to get involved if ya like!
Being Australian I find this topic endlessly fascinating.
Living here if we were to always only shop/eat seasonally it would severely limit what we have as we are too far away from the rest of the world to just bring over some fresh produce.
But at the same time, a few years ago there was a huge backlash and push for us to only shop for Australian grown meats and produce, to the point where all the major supermarkets now boast about having a minimum 96-98% Australian grown produce. But again, as you guys stated, many “staples” like tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, apples, are available year round, grown in greenhouses and controlled environments.
Having worked in fresh food departments of a major supermarket chain for many years I can attest to many “average” consumers complaining when produce is imported, but also complaining when we don’t stock something they want that is clearly out of season. It wasn’t till I employed an ex-brit who was dumbfounded by how much we place emphasis on “Aussie grown” food that I realised this was a uniquely Australian situation. (or I guess somewhere like New Zealand might have a similar experience?)
I personally don’t mind eating seasonally and try to as best I can, but as mentioned in the podcast and by a couple of comments, city-based farmers markets are generally super expensive, much more so than a local green-grocer or supermarket, and I don’t always have the time to drive 1-2 hours out of the city to do a produce shop, although I love to do it when I can.
ALSO: Barry Taylor, I challenge your comment about the UK having the best strawberries in the world! Come to Australia during fresh berry season, it will blow your mind! I’m with Ben on having excitement points, especially at the start of the summer season here, berries, mangoes, tomatoes, soooo good!
This is very interesting! We have some emphasis on British grown produce but it doesn’t seem to be to this kind of extent. Price is definitely a really difficult factor – do you think making this produce more accessible would encourage people to eat more seasonally? Someone also pointed out that preserving fruit and veg was a great way to enjoy the best of the produce when it’s not in season.
Also, haha! Barry seems to have caused a bit of drama with his British strawberries comment. Looks like we’re gonna have to travel the world and try all the strawbs soon!
Yes! Strawberries at different price points, where the price gets higher the further you have to travel to eat one
Living around Chicago, it’s hard to think about eating seasonally in the winter, because it’s wayyyy too cold. Therefore the first things I thought about were things that might be preserved, like sauerkraut, dried corn/masa, pickled vegetables, and stored root veggies. We still get produce, but it almost lost all meaning to shop seasonally because it wouldn’t sustain the population in midwest areas. And even during the rest of the seasons, where we do have local farmer’s markets, it’s easier for me to tell you what month it is by how tall the corn is growing then by what other product is available (I’ve never felt a truer midwestern spirit than when I wrote that sentence).
Ironically, the more I think about it, however, there aren’t really sustainable options to shop locally and in season here, and also in a lot of other areas of the country. The ratio of grocery stores can be limited in areas compared to fast food, and produce is sometimes too expensive to buy. It does tie into what Mike is saying, produce in the US can be that expensive. The phrase “food desert”: areas that don’t have reasonable access to fresh and/or affordable food, has been coined. Its really been prevalent in Chicago and Detroit, but I know its starting to gain traction as a larger problem around the US.
Do you guys have food deserts in the UK?
Preserving fruit and veg is a great alternative when you can’t eat seasonally, it’s crazy that it might actually be more sustainable to get your fruit and veg from abroad anyway, as Ben mentioned with the Moroccan tomatoes! Do you think a higher availability and education around seasonal eating would benefit people in your area?
Never heard of the phrase food desert but can definitely understand what you’re getting at. Perhaps you could call London a food desert – whilst there’s loads of variety and availability, the cost of food in the city is far higher than the rest of the UK!
The farmers market near me, in Edinburgh, can be described in many ways, and none of those ways are ‘cheap’. It has an incredible location, just below the castle, so I assume stalls are exhorbitantly expensive, which I’m sure factors in to the cost of everything, but if you go there with a tenner you’ll be lucky to get one thing. It also doesn’t have that much veg though, it tends more towards animal products like the buffalo stall, and the fantastic cheese stall. As to where I could get fresh, in season vegetables cheaply in the middle of Edinburgh?The cheapest place is probably the greengrocer, but they don’t seem to change their stock depending on what is seasonal. I was there the other day for celeriac, and they still had fresh berries out front, same as in summer.
When I was a kid I was much more aware of seasonal food I think because we had a big garden and greenhouse, so grew our own. We had fresh apples all winter as we had this old chest of drawers that had lots of shallow drawers, so the apples could be kept cool, dry, and dark without touching each other. My mum did gazpacho soup only when all the ingredients for it were ripe in the greenhouse, and it tasted incredible when everything in it came straight from the plant.
The farmers market sounds awesome, it’s a shame about the cost!
Growing your own fruit and veg seems to be the best way to be aware of seasonal produce in general – Ben’s family grow a lot of fruit and veg in their garden and it always tastes better freshly picked, right? Def need that recipe for gazpacho soup too!
You’re in luck, my big sister can remember what went into the gazpacho:
Big jug of tomatoes
(about 1kg), a mixture of whatevers growing (usually a cherry tomato size and a larger heirloom variety)
3 bell peppers, red or orange
Garlic (1-3 cloves, depending on taste)
1 Red onion
Pop the tomatoes and peppers under the grill for a few minutes, pop them in a sandwich bag until the skins come off easily, de-seed the peppers, stick everything in a blender, then swear a lot about how much you hate sieving it while sieving it. Chill till the kids start whining. Add salt, pepper, and cider vinegar to taste. Serve with grilled cheese on baguette slices.
Most recipes on the internet seem to thicken it with bread, but sieving it gives a much fresher flavour. Occasionally a red chilli would make its way in too when my dad was the one sent down to the greenhouse. That’s pretty tasty, when you aren’t three. Sometimes celery would make its way in when my dad wasn’t looking. That’s also pretty tasty if you don’t hate celery.
The main key is just picking the veg right before you use them. I tried it with supermarket veg once and it was rubbish and watery.
Mike’s observation about farmer’s markets is from my experience living in Vancouver, bang on. The things that I’ve seen tend to be more expensive and I may be wrong, but I feel that it’s because people go to farmer’s markets with the expectation that they’re getting higher quality, fresher ingredients and sellers use that to their advantage. I’ve also watched this doc where the vegetables and fruits that some people sell are actually taken from the same corporate farms that supply supermarkets.
With that said, do you guys have any favourite/go to farmer’s markets? Would love to see a list!
That documentary sounds interesting, can you remember what it was called?? The guys usually head to farmers markets closest to their homes but a quick google search will find you some great one’s in central London if that’s what you’re after! It looks like there’s a cool one near London Bridge…
Ok, so I’m using the term doc very loosely here but: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YYwB63YslbA
Love! Love! Love! when you do best of London videos. Love the comparison of different price points and dining experiences. Love adding new restaurants to our wish list. How about one on Tapas? Or Taquerias? What about one that is all about stands and restaurants in or near Borough Market?
We’ll add tapas to the list of themes to try…yum!