Now that I’ve got a steady supply of fresh organic vegetables coming from my ‘farm’ – it’s scarcely a farm, but no one talks about allotments here – I’m learning how to eat stuff that’s in season rather than thinking of what I want to eat and then going out to buy the ingredients. I guess I’m not very imaginative with my meals, partly because I don’t especially enjoy cooking and partly because I don’t have a lot of time to do anything elaborate by the time I get home in the evening. Nevertheless, I think I’m eating as well as I’ve ever done, considering I have a dish of mustard leaves or pak choi or choi sum to accompany a mildly spicy main meal which may have aubergines or sweet potatoes or cassava, white radish, carrots or broccoli plus a simple side salad of lettuce, herbs and tomatoes. The main meal will last at least two days, and it’s usually pretty tasty. I buy tinned tomatoes and onions, garlic and ginger, although we’re growing garlic and onions so they’ll eventually drop off my shopping list too. And I’ve also got a steady supply of passionfruit, which seems to produce fruit more or less the whole year round, as well as occasional bananas, a dozen oranges and lots of small citrus for flavouring boring old water. To be honest, I feel pretty pleased with myself. I’m able to provide my family with good organic produce every day, which is good for our health, tastes much better than food from the shops, and cuts down our carbon emissions enormously because we’re not buying stuff that’s been transported in from hundreds or thousands of miles away. It’s a weird feeling knowing that I’m actually doing something right.
To try to push myself a little into getting the best out of my vegetables, I’ve borrowed a book from a friend called ‘A Guide to Chinese Market Vegetables’ by Martha Dahlen and Karen Phillipps, the well-known illustrator. It gives very useful information on how to use 32 common vegetables for both Western and Chinese dishes, sticking firmly to everyday cooking rather than cordon bleu stuff. I’ll probably buy it, except that I have so many cook books, most of which I never open, that I’m now very wary of buying another. I always seem to end up chucking everything into a pot together and adding herbs or spices to make it taste Indian or Italian, irrespective of what delights I could be preparing if I only opened one of my books. I’m also delving into one or two of my books on herbs to try to make better use of them. In the past I’ve added rosemary to flavour olive oil, coated cream cheese with chives and made pot pourri, but they’ve been once in a lifetime events. Why don’t I do it more often? I must get my kids to help me – they’d love experimenting like that.
Let me encourage you all to do yourselves a favour by eating locally-grown, organic food that’s in season. It’s good for your own health, as well as the health of the planet.