When it comes to produce, the seasons dictate the market and direction of menus. However, with our future relationship with Europe uncertain, and the effects of global warming and sustainability changing consumer demand, the future of food is a little uncertain…
From heaving vines of heirloom tomatoes, to the intense bounty of hedgerow fruit, the seasonal calendar provides some truly exquisite ingredients. But when we talk about seasonality, we also need to take into consideration the region. How far should we be searching for produce in a particular season, and is the global climate crisis going to play more of a role in consumer diet choice?
Well the short answer is yes. We are already seeing a rise in conscious consumerism and the exponential growth of the vegan, veggie and plant-based market is being driven by environmental awareness. Everywhere from shampoo and household energy supply, through to grocery shopping and dining choice is under fire and what’s evidently clear, is that consumers want a green option.
Looking to a smaller region for your produce has served many a chef very well. One only needs to look at Rene Redzepi and the rise of new Nordic cuisine to take inspiration. Here, when Redzepi realised lemons would not grow in Scandinavia, he looked elsewhere to find his citric zing – from the defense glands of ants. Similar, though less drastic alternatives are lurking throughout the UK with heritage varieties of root veg, fruit and underutilised game.
From the south of the UK, the rich produce of southern France can work out much closer and ‘local’ than produce grown in Scotland. However, with our relationship to the EU undecided, some of that bounty may be trickier, and more costly to get your hands on than ever before.
Preservation of seasonal produce is the savvy chef’s insurance policy. Taking advantage of gluts and using preservation techniques to prolong their usable life, delivering bursts of intense flavour even in the deepest corners of a bleak mid-winter.
Whether it’s house pickled and fermented concoctions (a popular trend at the minute), or taking advantage of fruit and vegetable purees from the likes of Sicoly, it’s purity of flavour that reigns supreme when it comes to food service. Whether you’re looking to balance the delicate essence of oranges, or looking to ramp up the intensity of a perfectly ripe strawberry, the empowerment these products give the kitchen is invaluable.
While the exact details of our seasonal produce may look precarious, we have been leaning on our strong relationships with farmers, wholesalers and distributors across Europe to ensure we stay ahead of the curve and first in line for the most select fruit and veg.
Some will look to go hyper local and rely solely on the finest British producers, while others might champion the incomparable flavour of Mirabelle plums, Passé Crassane pears or Sicilian lemons. Either way, restaurateurs and chefs alike will need to work to balance an increasingly discerning clientele that not only demand exquisite flavour, but a more environmentally considered approach to the dishes make up.