What is the Hunger Gap?

If you have been a Locavore customer for a while you will know all about the Hunger Gap. Its that time of year between winter and spring when fresh food is scarce.

Supermarkets sell us “fresh” food which can be six months or even, in the case of apples, a year old. They harvest produce and store it in giant warehouses where the air has reduced oxygen. These places keep fruit and veg in a state where it looks fresh but lots of the nutrients have gone. It’s part of the reason industrial food has become so bland. Choosing fresh and local means we get to eat food with real flavour. The supermarkets have provided a year-round bounty of blandness where we eat strawberries in December & parsnips in summer. Eating local means getting back in touch with the flavours of the season, the gifts of the natural world.

All the produce we sell is organic so that means we cannot use preservative chemicals. Storage of organic veg tends to be more tricky and with roots we rely on the soil to do that for us. Leaving soil on carrots and potatoes can double their storage time as it preserves the moisture in the vegetable. Even with that though we cannot store veg for as long as the supermarkets and perhaps we would not want to as it degrades the food and requires the use of energy.

The main challenge with seasonal eating is what to do when the seasons do not provide. The hunger gap is the time when the roots, cabbages and parsnips of winter have run out but the bright greens of spring are not ready. This year we are trying to source extra mushrooms (after a national shortage due to Brexit) and we are using a little produce from overseas to make sure your box is as satisfying as can be. We are lucky that we have this luxury, in bygone times people preserved vegetables for this season and foraged early leaves such as wild garlic and nettles to survive.

For Locavore this is a nailbiting season as we wait to see how the weather affects new season growth, the storage of winter veg and the final harvests of potatoes, onions and carrots. This last 12 months has been complicated by the pandemic and unsettled weather has caused lots of crop failures. Despite this we are still getting wonderful potatoes, carrots, parsnips, red cabbage and swedes from Chapel Farm in Berwick. Organic Pantry in North Yorkshire have been providing us with some wonderful purple sprouting broccoli and the last remnants of their kale.

What does it mean for your veg box?

All this means your veg box will get lighter during March. This is because the cost of fresh vegetables goes up as they become more scarce. During winter the price of root veg is pretty low, this is the cheapest season of the year.

Spring and summer are different. The veg are lighter – literally! Lettuce does not weigh nearly as much as a swede. As things get lighter the box can seem like less value for money but let’s be honest, who isn’t looking forward to the crunch of lettuce and the heady aroma of tomatoes? I always switch up the size of my box for summer and then reduce it again in Autumn as the roots return.

As the veg get lighter so do our meals. I love that transition from stew to a salad. The pleasure of a poached egg bathing asparagus in its silky yolk. What we lose in bulk we gain in texture and variety of flavours. We also don’t need to spend as long in the kitchen, a salad can be thrown together in minutes. Weather permitting we will have some beautiful coriander in April/May. I am also looking forward to bean season & edible flowers.

Hunger Gap Games, tips for survival.

  1. Join our Facebook group. If you’re looking for inspiration for what to cook from your box this is the place to be. This is where you can chat to other box subscribers, ask questions and see what everyone else is doing with their produce
  2. Start preserving now. Making some quick pickles is a great way to preserve some of the roots which will soon run out.
  3. Ferment your veg. You can make sauerkraut from almost anything and it will provide you with a powerhouse of nutrients not to mention fab flavour. Fermented vegetables can stay in the fridge for months.
  4. Batch cook & freeze. I had more kale than I needed last week so I blanched it & its now in my freezer waiting for those weeks when we don’t get many green things. You can do this with most veg.
  5. Think about getting nutrients from places you don’t normally go to. Pulses are a phenomenal way to nourish body & soul. Having a few cans of lentils & chickpeas on hand means a dal or tasty dip are always just a few minutes away.

At Locavore we are passionate about changing the food system to be more sustainable, ethical and to produce food which is good for everyone. It is a different way of doing things and it means we have to adjust our expectations a little but we believe it is worth it. It is worth it not just because this is a more environmentally friendly way of eating but also because it tastes better and we know that neither the planet or the people who work in the system are being exploited.

Please have a look at our Bigger Plan to fond out more about our plans and how you can get involved.