We're in the middle of the hungry gap - but what does that mean?!
The hungry gap is the time of year where seasonal local produce is scarce. It affects temperate climates with seasonal weather changes, the exact climate we have in the UK. The temperature fluctuations create a dip in the production for farmers and this is typically experienced between April and early June each year. During this time the brassicas we've enjoyed over the winter (kale, cabbages etc.) bolt in the warmer spring weather. The energy which had been put into leaf growth is redirected into creating flowers and seeds. At the same time spring crops which wouldn't survive the winter if planted earlier, are not ready for harvest. These two coupled together create a gap in production.
Traditionally to bridge the hungry gap, homes across the UK would store and preserve food for use throughout the winter and spring. Otherwise dinner tables were left looking rather sad with old potatoes and cabbages being the main source of vegetables. Foraging was a lot more common and helped provide variety during the unproductive season. With nettles, wild garlic and dandelions plentiful during the spring months. The summer harvests however became a thing of celebration and longed for during the hungry gap.
Today, the hungry gap isn't always noticeable, as supermarket shelves are full of variety of produce from around the world. Our ability to import fruit and vegetables gives us the choice to have a constant supply of a variety, accessing all growing seasons year-round. Nowadays the UK imports 30% of its food from the EU, with many fruits and vegetables coming from warmer climes such as Spain and Italy. North African countries are also commonly seen on produce labels; Egypt alone exported over 2.8m tonnes of vegetables in 2018.
Whilst imports do bridge the gap, buying local produce and eating seasonally has huge benefits. Local produce has fewer air miles and associated carbon costs, it also supports British producers, helping to grow local economies. To see what is in season now and what to expect in the coming months, the BBC Good Food website has a useful seasonal food calendar https://www.bbcgoodfood.com/seasonal-calendar/all
At Lee Greens we believe in eating great fresh food that supports local trade and minimises food miles. We are really excited to have the chance to provide delicious, organic, affordable produce to people in our community and to build strong relationships with local famers so that we can support one another in the long term.