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Local, organic food from farm to fork

Green godliness is easy – it can be as simple as knowing your postcode.

If you’re looking to make a whopping dent in your carbon footprint, you can’t go far wrong if you start shopping locally. Getting food to fork without the fuel-heavy distribution, refrigeration, processing and packaging that the big supermarkets are guilty of, is one of today’s top ethical challenges. But – and this is the good bit – it can be the easiest green campaigning you’ll ever have to do, and it can be done online. Going local is a sure way to go green.

The local food scene is buzzing. Whether you are in town or country you’ll no doubt have noticed some of the 550 farmers’ markets springing up over the UK peddling their curious jams, oversized pies, and well, fresh fruit and vegetables picked and packed before most of us have finished our breakfast. New shop and drop vegetable box schemes will also deliver local food with fewer food miles, come wrapped in brown paper bags (remember those?) and invest direct in the local economy. And you’ll happily discover umpteen recipes for pumpkin along the way.

But in an age when supermarkets are undergoing the great green makeover, need we worry about supporting the retail giants? Well, yes. It’s not just weirdy-beardys that boycott Tesco, there are good reasons to shop local. Tesco’s current 30 per cent claim over the UK grocery market could be set to rise, Friends of the Earth’s Vicki Hird tell us: “With planned expansion in stores, and a large emphasis on the huge out-of-town hypermarkets, it is hard to see any ethical food marketing make a real dent in their operations.”

To halt the Tescopolisation of the marketplace is in part down to us as ethical consumers. Joy Carey, head of local food at the Soil Association tells us: “We think the key to future changes lies with us – the public. For example, in Cornwall, we calculated that if every tourist, resident, or business switched just 1 per cent of their spending to local items, it would put £52 million into the local economy every year. This sounds ambitious, but getting a small swing in spending patterns is very achievable.” Indeed, every little does help.

But we must keep the pressure on. The Soil Association is nervous about a Catch-22 situation arising if insufficient consumers buy local farm produce. A lack of consumers means a lack of farmers wanting to supply them, which leads to a lack of facilities, and so on. “Farmers need to feel confident that if they make changes to what they produce and where they sell it, they won't get left with unsold goods,” argues Joy.

Tracy Holland of North Country Organics , is optimistic about the future. They supply over 6 tonnes of produce each week to homes in the North of England. “People are now seeing what damage the supermarkets have done, and quite rightly want to do something about it. Our customers want to buy ‘real food from real people’ who can tell you when and where it was grown.”

And we have the technology on our side. Reducing your carbon footprint is at your fingertips. Innovative ‘postcode searching’ for your nearest vegetable box scheme or farm shop are simple ways that you can reconnect with your local producers and make your way to their farm gate. Who knows, you may even find you can walk there. How’s that for reducing your carbon footprint? Or get a box delivered to you. Either way going local is sure to put you on the path to green godliness.

To find your local box delivery company by your postcode, visit:

www.ethicalsuperstore.com/category/food-and-drink/fresh-foods/

Fresh from River Cottage, Hugh Fearnley–Whittingstall cooks up a seasonal pumpkin recipe perfect for those chilly autumn nights.

Serves 4-6, generously

1 medium (3-4kg) pumpkin or several small squashes
Up to 500g Gruyère cheese, grated (depending on the size of your pumpkin)
up to 1 litre of double cream
freshly grated nutmeg
a knob of butter
salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Slice the top off the pumpkin or squashes three-quarters of the way up and retain – this is your lid.

2. Scoop out the seeds and surrounding fibres from the pumpkin and place the scooped-out pumpkin on a baking tray or in an ovenproof dish.

3. Put enough grated Gruyère into the empty cavity of the pumpkin to fill about a third of it, then pour in double cream until the cavity is two-thirds full. Add a few gratings of nutmeg, a little salt and plenty of black pepper. Throw in a knob of butter and replace the lid so the pumpkin is whole again.

4. Place in a fairly hot oven (190°C/Gas Mark 5) and cook for 45 minutes to one and a quarter hours, depending on the size of the pumpkin. Test by removing the lid and poking at the flesh from the inside. It should be nice and tender. At this point, the skin may be lightly burnt and the whole thing just beginning to sag a bit.

Hugh’s advice: "When the pumpkin is completely soft and cooked through, there is a real danger of collapse. The larger the pumpkin, the bigger the danger. Don't panic if it happens – it will look a bit deflated but will still taste delicious."

5. Serve small squashes individually in bowls, with spoons to scoop out the flesh. Serve the larger pumpkin by scooping plenty of flesh and the creamy, cheesy liquid (the Gruyère comes out in lovely long, messy strings) into warmed soup bowls. Either way, serve piping hot.

Reproduced with kind permission from rivercottage.net

 

Three more great ways to shop local

 

1. Visit a Farmers’ Market.

For a bona fide market, visit www.farma.org.uk where all market produce is guaranteed to come within a set mile radius and be producer made.

 

2. Order a regular fruit and vegetable box.

The ultimate green shop and drop with year-round seasonal delights.

Visit our fresh foods section to order an organic box.

For more seasonal recipes try www.vegbox-recipes.co.uk

 

3. Support local shops

Make your money go further in the local economy. To find your local farm shop, try www.bigbarn.co.uk

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