Monday, 17 March 2008

Should frugal cooks forget the idea of seasonal food?

A bit of a shock in Waitrose on Saturday. (I know, I know - it's not by any means the most frugal place to shop but it's my nearest supermarket and it was simply chucking down . . . )

It was cheaper to buy out of season strawberries than in-season rhubarb. By quite a margin. 400g of Spanish strawberries cost £1.59. 400g of rhubarb - admittedly Dutch so it had some way to travel - was £2.99. I thought rhubarb was supposed to be a UK crop at this time of year.

It seems part of a growing trend I've spotted for shops to charge more for in season foods rather than less. Like Purple Sprouting Broccoli which is £1.75 for half a kilo in my local greengrocer. It's like 'we're doing you foodies a favour by stocking this at all so we're going to charge you through the nose for it'.

The only remaining arguments against buying out of season strawberries are the not insignificant factor of the air miles they clock up and the fact that they don't taste of anything (although I've found if you cut away the un-ripe white flesh by the stalk, slice and sprinkle them with sugar and let them macerate for 10 minutes they taste a whole lot better).

Maybe we should all be buying frozen fruit instead . . .


Dzanani said...

I'm sure you know this already, but its worth mentioning here. Sometimes the reason that out of season food is cheaper than in season food is because of farm subsidies.....(farmers get 'paid' to farm, and so don't need to charge high prices for their products, because they know they'll cover costs with profit courtesy of the government).

Here in South Africa its cheaper to buy tinned tomatoes imported from Italy than it is to buy the local South African equivalent. I think its really sad.

Fiona Beckett said...

I'm sure that goes on but not in the European Union, I think, of which Spain and Britain are a part. So I doubt if Spanish strawberries, for instance would be subsidised.

It's tough for families though who are really hard up to put supporting their local farmers above saving money from the household budget. The only argument I think is 'Do you want those producers still to be there in 10 years' time?" Hopefully the answer is yes.