We’ve had allotments for well over 30 years, and eating our own produce is an ingrained part of our family life. Alongside that, I’ve increasingly bought produce in season to enjoy at the time but also to preserve. First pears, then tomatoes, then cherries, now lemons.
Many years ago (maybe 10 years?), one February we set ourselves a challenge to eat almost entirely local and seasonal food. Our exceptions were fair-traded sugar, coffee, tea and spices. We learnt a lot from the experiment, and permanently changed some of our buying habits as a result.
I’m increasingly trying to avoid freezing produce and use other methods of preserving – fermenting, chutneys, pickles, dehydrating, bottling (or canning, as it’s called in the USA).
So far my success with bottling has been limited, so my one of my challenges for this year is to get it right. This seems to me a more sustainable approach than freezing, and anyway, we don’t have a large enough freezer to store very much food, and it seems to me best to focus on using it to save any ‘leftovers’ we can’t use immediately, and batch cooking to avoid having the oven on for say just one loaf. So for example I always bake 4 loaves (the max I can fit in our oven) when I’m baking bread.
To do this successfully and eat well all year round, you really need to be on the ball with what’s in season and what’s not. It helps to be able to lay your hands on reliable and favourite recipes at the right time. For example, that courgette cake that tastes delicious and uses up some of the annual courgette glut.
To make this easier, in 2008 I set up a book where I keep things in an organised way. I bought a hardback book (to be sturdy and last well for many years), which I could organise by month (mostly), to remind myself what to look out for/buy/make each month. I have an additional section at the back for my all-year-round favourites.
This is what I came up with.