Sunday, September 20, 2009

Beating the Recession the Delicious Way

Autumn is such a bountiful season. How wonderful that even in this time of recession and economic downturn, we can still rejoice in an amazing harvest. Of course one of the best ways to fight the recession is to eat seasonally and buy locally. It’s environmentally friendly plus it helps small businesses and farmers during these difficult times. It’s also a fantastically delicious and healthy option, as freshly picked fruit and vegetables taste so much better and retain more of their vitamins than those that have been kept in cold storage for weeks on end by large supermarket chains.

Today my husband and I drove out into the Berkshire countryside to visit Cross Lanes Fruit Farm*. They grow apples, pears and plums there. I originally discovered their yummy produce at the local monthly farmer’s market in Purley-on-Thames, sampling some of their Worcester Permain and Ellisons Orange variety apples. Cross Farm also runs a shop at the farm Wednesday to Saturday between August and January.

I was struck by how beautiful the orchards were as we drove in through the narrow gates. It was a pretty cloudy day, but the apples stood out proudly against the stormy skies. There was so much on offer in the shop. They had several varieties of apples and pears, along with two kinds of apple juice and local honey. We bought more Ellisons Orange apples along with some James Grieve apples and sweet and juicy Onward pears (onward to what, I wonder?). Actually the apples and pears you will find available locally do have wonderful names. Of course they vary from place to place and country to country, but some of them sound almost as intriguing as they taste. When I was a child in Canada my favourite apple was “Northern Spy”; it sounded very exotic indeed to my childlike ears. Today, some of my favourite apple names include Greensleeves, Delbarestivale, St Edmond’s Russet, Peasegood Nonsuch and Red Devil. As for pears, there’s a lot more than just Conference out there - you can find Packham’s Triumph, Beurre Hardy and Glou Morceau.

Most places do have farm shops relatively nearby, and if you live in the centre of a town what better excuse for a day out in the country than an excursion to a lovely farm or two? It’s a great day out with kids as well - especially in this day and age where so many children have little opportunity to see where fruit and vegetables really come from. They love to see things actually growing, and in my experience, it makes reluctant eaters much less so. There is something about seeing a thing growing that makes it so much more exciting to eat. Another option is to search the internet for local farmer’s markets, as fresh produce is on offer there, and it is usually only a day or so from the tree or field. In many cases things are much less expensive than in larger shops too.

So for the healthy, delicious option, explore shopping locally as an alternative to the big supermarkets. It might take a bit more time and effort, but when you can manage it, the rewards are well worth it. Money saved, fresher, extra delicious food, saving the planet and helping local producers - it’s a great way to benefit yourself and lots of other people at the same time - and have some fun into the bargain!

*Cross Lanes Fruit Farm
Mapledurham, Reading

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