I think when we reach a certain age, we reminisce about what it was like when we were young compared to today. I usually wake early in the morning, but too early to get up, I’m not over-enthusiastic to tear into housework, I’m more of a thinker – I think I won’t get up just now kind of thinker. For years I hated the idea of a TV in the bedroom but now I tend to wake just a bit too early and I gave in, I often flick through channels and either tire myself out looking for something that doesn’t have a sales pitch or a soap omnibus or I find a thought-provoking programme that might actually be interesting.
One morning I chanced upon the programme “Rip Off Britain – Food” which exposes how food manufacturers/suppliers rip off customers. It showed rows and rows of discarded pumpkins, discarded because the supermarkets want perfection in shape and size. Of course the supermarkets say that’s what the customer wants, but I can’t be sure of that. We saw girls visiting farms to glean what’s discarded. They had large basket loads of pumpkins which were a bit too small for the supermarket or had a blemish on the skin, they were still fresh and edible but by the looks of it there were thousands left in the field to rot. The gleaners collect and distribute the food for charitable purposes.
I too discovered ‘gleaning’ this year, we are almost cheek by jowl with a tomato nursery and I buy boxes of discarded tomatoes very cheaply, not because there was anything wrong with them, they were excellent but maybe too small, too big, too ripe, too underripe or misshapen, so I have been making soups, sauces, passata and chutneys, as well as sharing them out with friends and neighbours.
Having been brought up as a war baby and seeing the thrifty measures of nothing being wasted, I was appalled at the amount of waste of produce now. Apparently supermarkets want straight carrots because they are easier to peel – so not only do supermarkets dictate what we want in shape and colour, they are now making work easier for us – or are they! I seldom buy fruit in polybags, if I want one apple, I buy one apple, I refuse to be trapped into buying more than I need. I no longer buy bags of salad either, although I thought it nice having a selection of salad leaves, I have since decided I don’t really want them, if I can’t grow my own, I can buy an iceberg lettuce and keep it in the fridge and it’ll still be crispy down to the last bite for a long time later.
Salad leaves in bags are filled with a gas to keep them fresher longer so when the bag is opened, they deteriorate quickly and although it says they are washed, there is an apparent danger that some tummy bug can still be lurking in them so it is advisable that we wash them ourselves as well. It may preserve the produce but it looks as if it can also preserve the harmful bacteria and microbes as well. Best bargain I’ve had was a pack of living lettuce in a supermarket although meant to be eaten as baby leaves, I planted them up in an Earthbox and had a very good crop of three varieties of lettuce which have kept me going for the best part of the summer.
The more I hear about the tricks of the supermarket to tempt customers and the unnecessary waste, the more I want to turn the clock back to when we used our own produce, in season and from local farms instead of always depending on imported produce. We apparently only eat half of the produce we grow and we waste half of that, so why is it there are so many starving people in the world?
During the war years, my parents kept chickens in the garden, we grew vegetables, my mother baked, we survived but even although nobody had much beyond survival rations, they still shared what they could, yet we are producing more and more crops which are going to waste just to please the unreasonable demands of corporate businesses. If the supermarkets were to sell the imperfect food cheaply, they would realise it’s not the customer demanding perfects, it’s more like a marketing strategy for the stores.
My garden isn’t big enough to grow everything I want but my small effort to produce something edible is my enjoyable way of saying I don’t subscribe to what supermarkets think we want, and what little I do grow, I still manage to share with neighbours.
The Gleaning Network (“has had a bumper summer haul thus far, with over 6 tonnes of fruit and veg saved from going to waste on farms across the UK since the start of August. That’s a whopping 75,000 portions (!) of produce that have reached grateful food poverty charities”)
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