Eating only what is in season has many advantages, some quite obvious and some not so. The obvious advantage is that it is sourced locally and perhaps direct from the producer. This allows you to enquire whether chemicals were used in its production; it may even allow you to taste it first. Very importantly, it means your money is being spent locally. There are several Galway restaurants focusing on sourcing the very best local produce and they are the ones that deserve your support; they will usually list the producers in the menu and it shows a dedication to quality.
I sometimes hear the comment that organic or local producers charge more than the supermarket; there are many reasons for that and I will explain later. For now I would like to talk about the fact that we have been brainwashed into believing that cheap food is goodness and that the shop selling the cheapest x, y, or z is the only one to visit. If you consider that you are what you eat, why would anyone even consider buying and eating cheap food for yourself and your family members? Surely the quest should be for the best food? If you brought your pride and joy car in for a service and the mechanic said we have some really cheap oil with no specifications available, would you say go ahead? I think not, you would be afraid that the car might seize up. This analogy is not far fetched; we need to be much more careful about what we eat as the really big producers only have one goal — the bottom line — profit.
No matter what product you are producing — food or widgets — if you make enormous amounts of it you can do it cheaper than the small one off producers. The difference is attention to quality; the difference is that small organic producers will allow certain plants to die without resorting to the widespread use of artificial fertiliser. The very good poultry producer will not put antibiotics in the feed. The difference is taste; a top class chicken will be chickenier, a really good carrot will be smelled from feet away, and that smell will not be chlorine.
Another reason why eating local and in season is beneficial is that it can cut down massively on the use of fossil fuels, hence our carbon footprint. Eating tasteless asparagus from Kenya or Argentina is an example; it is surely a crazy situation to be flying things like this halfway across the world so that we can fill supermarket shelves and we can satisfy ourselves that we are so affluent we can have anything at any time of the year. It is all a marketing hype which has absolutely nothing to do with quality or taste. I have seen some figures that show the relationship between calories used to import a piece of fruit versus the calories in the fruit and it is simply verging on the ridiculous.
As fossil fuels runs out we will be forced to eat more local produce, and to be honest there is far more satisfaction to be gained from waiting until strawberries are in season than getting used to these as an ‘always available’ item. As my grandmother used to say, “What is seldom is wonderful”.
If you want to see what is in season right now why not visit the Galway Saturday market and meet growers like Dirk Flake (that’s him in the photograph ) or his friend Joachim. They produce some wonderful vegetables which are in season now, cabbage, leeks, mangetout, Chinese mixed leaves, spinach, and soon lots of different lettuce varieties. Dirk also sells baby plants which I have used for several years and transplanted into my own little plot. He is also an importer of organic wines and I will report on these after I have had a chance to do a tasting.