Happy New Year! I hope your 2017 is off to a healthy and happy start – maybe you’ve made some resolutions, maybe you participated in challenges to shake up what you eat, where you eat, how you eat, or how you cook – there are plenty of options online to create new food habits! However you begin the year, there is always something fresh and new to discover in your eating and cooking habits. With a new year, there comes a new crop of food trends, fresh cooking ideas, and new thoughts and ideas about food and nutrition to consider. All this newness helps make a bleary winter feel a little more lively, giving us new ways to bring joy and excitement to the meals we prepare for ourselves and our friends and family. So please read on and see what food news stories we’re talking about this month!
The United Kingdom is experiencing a produce crisis that might last until April or May. The country imports many different kinds of vegetables, from lettuce and arugula to broccoli and cabbage, from southern Europe. This season’s bad weather wrecked harvests for many farmers in Spain, a country that the UK imports from frequently. The result? Vegetable shortage! Because the growing season in the UK is so short, importing from warmer climates, like Spain or Portugal, is a way to get fresh vegetables available in the months when not much is coming out the soil in the British Isles. The problem is that storms and unpredictable weather in Spain means there is a severe shortage of vegetables on the shelves in British stores.
Where vegetables were available, local news reported that the price of these food items increased dramatically, sometimes doubling or even tripling in price. A kilogram of eggplants increased in price by 132% in January, while the price of tomatoes climbed 45%. While heartier plants like broccoli and cabbage are suffering, harvests in tender leafy herbs have been hit very hard too. Mint, cilantro, and parsley, which are also imported from Spain, are hard to find on British grocery shelves.
So how are vegetable fans in the UK responding? They’re planting their own!
Resourceful Brits, looking to prevent a future vegetable shortage, are planting their own vegetables and eating more of what’s seasonally available around them. Can’t get your hands on lettuce on a cold February day? Leafy greens like kale and beet greens are available during the winter, helping veggie-craving Brits get their salad fix. While they rediscover the delicious vegetables locally available, many people are also planting their own seeds to make sure they have their own supply of kitchen favorites like zucchini, eggplant, and lettuce. Indoor herb pots, for culinary favorites like mint and basil, are increasingly popular and beginning to sell out at home and garden supply stores around the region. Herb and vegetable seeds are in high demand as people begin planting in window boxes, kitchen pots, yards, and gardens. Will this boost in home gardening mean an increase in the British public’s awareness of their food origins? We’ll have to watch and see.
Well what about some news closer to home?
In the United States, it’s seed-planting time for us as well! Now is the time when farmers and gardeners begin their plants from seeds so that when they transplant into pots or beds in late Spring, the seedlings are robust enough to put down strong roots and keep growing throughout the Summer (and into the Fall, depending on the plant). Tomatoes and summer-time classics like peppers and cucumbers all start from tiny seeds that take time to sprout into anything visible above the soil, which means that the seed needs time to grow in a warm soil, protected from snow and bitter cold. Most farmers (and avid home gardeners) begin their seeds inside greenhouses or garages to protect fledgling plants from the winter weather.
Seed catalogs begin showing up in the mail in December and January with tempting images of summer harvests. Lush photos of red tomatoes and leafy greens, squash, corn, beans, herbs, and beautiful flowers spring up from every page. I thumb through these catalogs on cold, dreary days, hoping that some of the summertime cheer might brighten the day. I make lists about the kinds of peppers I want to plant, and which herbs would be best for my kitchen.
Starting plants from seed take time, planning, and a bit of hope. For more details about how to start your own seeds, click here for the instructions my mother follows when she starts tomatoes. If you are like me, you love the seed catalogs and all the sunny daydreams that come along with them, but starting from seed isn’t always sometimes you can plan in your daily life. Sometimes the desire to plant summertime tomatoes hits you later in the season, but don’t worry! Plenty of garden supply stores provide seedlings that are robust enough to plant in your gardens and pots at home, so if you miss the seed-starting period, it’s not too late to still plan your summer garden!