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Jane Stevenson

Jane Stevenson


Allotmenteer and obsessive bean grower, Director of Bristol Food Network CIC and part-time environmentalist.

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7 May 2016

Seasonal challenge: Last post

I've been looking at the best websites for seasonal advice, and had really been favouring Eat Seasonably. It's colourful, easy to use and accessible, but it's limited in its range of fruit & veg and I'm not entirely convinced about its accuracy - Cucumbers in May? Really?! Instead, I think Eat the seasons and the BBC Food site may be good places to start. Both show you what's in season NOW, and what's going in & out of season, and offer recipe suggestions. http://eatseasonably.co.uk · http://www.eattheseasons.co.uk · http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/seasons · My last reflection is a positive one. Having not seen much great seasonality celebration during the week, I went for the first time to the Tobacco Factory's street food market, held on a Friday evening. It was packed with families with young kids being entertained in the TF yard, or sitting out & eating at the picnic benches provided. One stall stood out for me. It was selling wild garlic pakora & roasted pepper & kale pakora - how Southville is that? We bought one of each and headed for a walk along the Avon tow path and then up through Rownham Hill to the bench at the top, where we sat and ate our wild garlic pakora, surrounded by blooming wild garlic.
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6 May 2016

Seasonal challenge: In store

I was going to write a nice post about the Farmers' Market and some new season vegetable treats, but pickings were slim there too, as well as on our allotment… So, instead, I thought about what we'd be eating now if we had to rely on traditional preserving methods. There is only so much pickled veg you can eat, so that probably means using dried. This is what we have in stock - dried peas & beans, and the last of our hazelnut crop. The volume of hazels which we get off our one tree, and after the squirrels have had their "share", is usually enough for one celebratory New Year's nut roast - so growing enough to be self-sufficient, seems impractical. Peas & beans however, can be quite prolific and if they're good climbers, then they take up relatively little ground space. Peas as a crop go back to the Neolithic, and dried peas made up a substantial bulk of the poor person's Medieval winter diet in the form of a soup/stew. We make them into falafel - which in honour of the pea, we call "piffle".
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2 May 2016

Seasonal challenge: On the plot

Pickings are slim on the plot at this time of year. It really is the hungry gap, when last year's crops are bolting and sowings from the autumn or early spring are tantalisingly but not yet ready. At the moment, we have the last of the purple sprouting broccoli (it wouldn't make it into the greengrocers on size grounds, but we don't have to factor-in the labour costs of picking the stuff), plus we have the last of the spinach (which is desperately trying to bolt). We have some hardy overwintering lettuces which are either too bitter for the rabbits & pigeons to bother with, or like the Japanese Mustard pictured, they're a little bit too spicy for the native wildlife. We have some new growth herbs - parsley, parcel, fennel, sweet cicely, Greek oregano, sage & rosemary. But my favourite thing at the moment is the elephant garlic. You're supposed to grow it for its over-sized but surprisingly mild bulb, but we started growing it ornamentally for it's lovely tall allium flower, having seen this done at a garden called Sticky Wicket in Dorset. At this time of year, the elephant garlic stems are growing like miniature leeks, and as we've got so much of it, I'm cutting the stems to use as an over-pungent leek or a rather mild garlic. You couldn't really make a whole meal with these ingredients, but they're quite strong-tasting additions which can enliven some blander veg.
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29 April 2016

Seasonal challenge: Fruit

There are very slim pickings at this time of year when it comes to fruit that's genuinely in season. Apparently the UK strawberry season officially starts on 1 May, but I don't expect to see any on the allotment till June. Similarly, thoughts of other relatively early fruit - cherries, gooseberries & redcurrants - might as well be put-off for another month at least. We should have some harvestable rhubarb, but for some reason, it's got stuck at around 4" tall and is refusing to grow any further (can't say I blame it with the recent Arctic winds & pelting hail). And I'm refusing to pay Yorkshire forcing prices. So, where does that leave us with any attempted seasonal eating? - probably with fruit that's been prepared and stored in some way. Last year we invested in a dehydrator to process the deluge of windfall apples that wouldn't otherwise keep. The dried apple has been a breakfast addition since the stored apples ran out at the end of December. Verdict: it's better than I thought it would be! Today we'll also be eating fruits of the freezer - a mix of redcurrants, blackcurrants, raspberries & blackberries.
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20 April 2016

Seasonal exploration

For Food Connections 2016, I'm going to explore what a seasonal diet might look like. There has been household rebellion about the proposal that we ONLY eat seasonally (or to be blunt, concerns have been raised about the ramifications of eating too much asparagus in one week). So I can't promise to ONLY eat seasonal produce but I'd like to explore what an April-May diet might look like if we weren't dependent on vast Dutch & Spanish glasshouses to feed us. In practice, I think that'll mean looking at what might still be in the food store - dried, frozen, preserved & pickled things from last year's harvest - as well as seeing what can be bought that's UK-grown outdoors (or without extra heat & lighting).
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30 April 2015

Wasted food challenge

During the first Food Connections festival, I looked at trying to minimise my non-recyclable food packaging. I've maintained a few good habits from last time around, but the cat has not! - she's back on the single cat food sachets, environmental challenge that she is. Anyway, this time around, I'm going to be looking at minimising what I end up chucking in the compost bin. I'm pretty bad at finishing-off the last bit in the jar, and at buying odd ingredients only to use them once, or bargain veg which then turn into compost of their own volition. I think the first step is to audit the contents of fridge & larder.
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