Seasonal Superheroes: Local food is miles better
With a land area that spans 1,368 square miles of English soil and a minimum of 75% of this being undeveloped, it comes as no surprise that Kent is covered with orchards, fields and gardens that are simply brimming with tasty produce. Self-proclaimed Locavore, Olivia Riccini, tells all…
In a world that is striving to be more sustainable, green and eco-friendly, never before has ‘eating local’ been so important. With a growing population that shows no signs of slowing down, sustainable agriculture and being able to track the supply chain back to the point of origin to evaluate ecological processes are crucial in a world where such practices can so greatly benefit the planet. Lessening the mileage that food travels before it arrives on your plate is also a largely contributing factor when it comes to helping reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as contributing towards improving our carbon footprint as a whole. In 2022, there are plenty of diets and titles that have been given to what and how we eat. From ‘intermittent fasting’ to the famed Atkins diet of the 2000s, to today’s popular fruitarian and vegan diets, all the way back to traditional ol’ veggie – our diets and eating rituals have become somewhat personality defining. It is of course important to remember, that the food we eat, does have an overall effect on our health, the way we look and the way we feel – both physically and mentally.
Surfacing its way to the top of this mixture of diet titles is a somewhat newly coined expression that comes hand-in-hand with the need for sustainability and environment-friendly, carbon-reductive actions. That word is: Locavore, which according to Oxford Languages, is defined as ‘a person whose diet consists only or principally of locally grown or produced food.’ And where, we might ask, is better to be a locavore than the good old Garden of England itself, where we are spoilt for choice, season after season, by the bountiful array of glorious fruit, veggies, fish, meat and other crops all carefully grown and reared by the seasoned farming extraordinaires that call this county home.
As the hazy days of summer draw to a close and we pop the last cherries, strawberries and other Kentish summer fruits into our mouths, we look ahead to no less sweeter days ripe with pears, apples and plums as well as an abundance of green vegetables, simply perfect for giving our bodies that healthy boost we might need to get us ready and raring to face the winter. According to one of the world’s leading health and wellness retailers, Holland and Barrett (www.hollandandbarrett.com) because seasonal produce travels such a short distance, it doesn’t spoil on the way and, as it has been harvested at the very best time, the taste is maximised. It is also for this very same reason that seasonal, local produce is also healthier for us too. ‘It’s no surprise that being locked in cargo holds and shipping containers for days, in order to reach us, does nothing for the nutritional content of the food,’ claims the health expert, ‘in fact, in many cases it’s detrimental. As a rule of thumb; the fresher the better, and you can’t get much fresher than eating seasonally-grown local produce.’
When fruits and vegetables are out of season in Kent, they either have to be grown in managed conditions or transported from the other side of the world. Both of these processes cost lots of money, and that cost inevitably gets passed onto you, the consumer. When you eat seasonally, local produce can be grown in natural conditions, including upon Kent’s fruitful soil, and easily transported to the point of sale, making it much more affordable for you and giving more of that profit to the farmer.
When you buy foods out of season, the profits are mainly swallowed up by the transporter and the retailer – and it’s a safe bet that none of these are based in your local area. So, if supporting Kent and our community lies close to your heart, by buying locally you’ll constantly be feeding the profits back into your own community and making this wonderful county an even better and more prosperous place to live. It is important to remember, growers in Kent don’t down tools out of season; someone somewhere will be growing fruit and veg or rearing cattle and catching fish. For those that aren’t churning out fruit and veg all year round, they’ll be working hard in all weathers to make sure they do when the season comes back round again.
So what exactly is in season at the moment in Kent and how can it benefit your diet and overall health?
Whether September’s unpredictable weather is making you crave soup or salad, the in-season vegetables in Kent will cater for just about any dish. Salad staples such as beetroot, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers will all be available; as will courgettes, spinach, runner beans and cabbage – just some of the favourites to make up traditional hot dishes. However, Kent’s abundant supply is not just limited to these, so many more delicious fruits and veggies are just waiting to be taken home and cooked up – and guess what? They are much closer and easier to get your hands on than you might think.
It is not just Kent’s famed farm shops that stock and sell fruit and veg straight from the supplier. Kent is also home to a myriad of fresh food and produce delivery companies that will deliver straight to your door and even cater any special events you might have. Kent Veg Box (www.kentvegbox.com) have been delivering Kent veg for over 15 years, straight from the field to their customers’ homes. As Kent’s only veg box company that uses exclusively Kentish produce; Kent Veg Box only supplies truly seasonal and local veg, with just a bit of citrus over the winter being their only import. ‘Low food miles equals low emissions, it is that simple,’ say founders Steve and Becca, ‘no one can fix climate change by themselves. We all need to do our little bit where we can. If we all do a little bit, it can add up to a lot.’ But how might this also help our overall health? Aside from being the fruit and veg we all need in a healthy balanced diet, as we have already established, local seasonal food is much better for us than non-seasonal imports. ‘Once cropped,’ says Becca, ‘the vitamins and other goodness in the veg starts to degrade. The longer it takes before you scoff it, the less nutrition it has. Studies at Penn State University have shown that Spinach can degrade by 50% in eight days. Low food miles means our spinach is never more than three days old when you get it.’ And let’s not forget about that all-important packaging too, ‘by only using local suppliers we have no need for packaging to protect the produce from weather or dirt during long transport trips.’ So you can breathe a further sigh of relief when it comes to planet-harming plastic contribution.
Another Kent based fruit and veg delivery company is Foodari (www.foodari.com). Devoted to the sourcing and supplying of outstanding fresh produce for some 15 years, Foodari stands out through their strong relationships across the supply chain. ‘We respond to food and buying trends as well as social and economic change,’ says founder Jonathan Parker. ‘Threaded through our three divisions is a commitment to provenance and traceability, impeccable customer service, and a commitment to leveraging cross-division benefits to support our customers. So whether you’re a small household in Canterbury, a Michelin-starred chef in London, a catering manager running a busy venue, or a retailer looking for new product lines, you can expect quality fresh produce that is traceable, reliably picked and delivered, and sustainably sourced.’ Although they have a diverse network of growers and producers locally, nationally and internationally; Foodari strongly supports local produce from Kent, and at certain times of the year supply up to 80% of all their fruit and veg from the Garden of England, and up to 90% from the UK. Delivering six days a week across the south of England, the fleet of vans are tracked and chilled to ensure produce arrives on time and in the very best condition – so you really will be getting the very best flavour and quality that Kent has to offer.
Based in East Malling Communigrow (www.communigrow.org.uk) is a registered food education charity focused on reconnecting people to freshly grown food, the outdoor environment it comes from and the soil it grows in. ‘We want to teach people from all walks of life about how to grow their own food and reconnect with nature. Learning, teaching, caring and sharing are the core aspects of the Communigrow project. We care about ethical food production, land and nature conservation and personal and collective well-being,’ says Commuigrow’s Laurence Snook. Offering practical experience to young people and adults, including those facing complex challenges and special needs, of learning how to grow food. Communigrow’s sessions are led by experienced growers and help young people and adults increase their self confidence and esteem and to improve their life prospects, as well as give them the skills and knowledge to grow their own food. You can not only help Communigrow and the community, but also benefit yourself and your health by using their veg box scheme, which you can find out more about via their website.
Despite the appeal of veg box schemes and home delivery, there’s nothing quite like the joy of hand-selecting each precious fruit and vegetable yourself. Taking this small joy that little bit further is also the notion of eating freshly picked Kent-grown produce in dish-form at one of our treasured Kent farm shops and eateries. These dishes will not only provide you with a hearty wholesome meal but also the inspiration to create some Kent produce inspired dishes of your own at home. No matter where you might be in Kent, you will undoubtedly be close by to one of our farm shops. For a truly rustic shop experience, visit Little Farthingloe Farm (www.littlefarthingloefarm.co.uk) in Dover. With untouched produce sourced from local farms in Kent, the fruit and veg is freshly picked and collected directly from the farms, and then placed onto the shelves. The shop also sells a range of apple juice from Sussex, free range eggs, wholefoods, pickles and jams. Not only does Farthingloe boast of a charming shop, they also have a delightful eatery with an array of delectable specials on their menu as well as famously good, mouthwatering homemade cakes. Eat them inside or lounge in their sunny outdoor area before mooching around the Kent Land Army museum, a small exhibition that is located in a neighbouring barn to honour our countryside in wartime heritage.
Based in Goudhurst, Taywell Farm Shop (www.taywellfarm.co.uk) stocks a huge selection of locally produced and high quality products. From strawberries, apples, plums and other seasonal fruits to Kentish ice cream, pies and local game, Taywell has a firm belief that local produce is the way to go. In Littlebourne near Canterbury, produce seekers will discover another Kent gem run by mother daughter duo, Steph and Lisa Twyman, who come from generations of farming. Founded during the 2020 pandemic, The Ivy Barn (www.instagram.com/the_ivy_barn) has been a roaring success ever since. Selling an abundance of local produce sourced directly from the growers they personally know and love, The Ivy Barn also serves Kent’s coffee favourite Garage Coffee (www.garageroasted.co.uk) alongside scrumptious cakes and light lunches. ‘My favourite thing about living in Kent is having fresh produce that is so local to us,’ says Steph, ‘Growing up on a farm, I have always had a love for the outdoors and the countryside and want to honour this in everything we serve and sell.’
When speaking about local produce and farm shops in Kent, recommendations would not be complete without a mention of Kent foodie treasure, Macknade (www.macknade.com). The South East’s leading food hall, delicatessen, butchery and café, local produce in its best form can be found rainbow-like upon the shelves of Macknade; branches of which are based in Faversham, Ashford and now Folkestone’s Harbour Arm. All produce and items have been meticulously selected and sourced, to ensure quality, freshness and flavour. Another larger scale farm shop that has also grown from roots that sprouted in the Kent farming world with traditional, humble beginnings is Gibsons Farm Shop (www.gibsonsfarmshop.com) near Wingham. Like many others of its kind, shoppers at Gibsons can take a break in their light, bright and airy eatery and snack upon delicious lunches and delectable cakes before making the most of their butchers and deli and selecting some of Kent’s finest fruits and vegetables to take home with them.
As their name suggests Provenance Potatoes (www.provenance-potatoes.co.uk) love local, and although a much loved carb, adding a healthy balance of potatoes to our diets can give us lots of wholesome joy. Small enough to know exactly which field your potatoes were grown in and even the seed they came from, Provenance spuds are grown with real care and respect for the environment, to make sure they meet your highest expectations. Lovingly graded and packed to the highest quality standards, Provenance don’t just sell potatoes, but also help with agronomic advice and seed supply too; helping farmers to increase yields and quality. Provenance Potatoes and their grower group have always been aware of the environmental and social impact their businesses have on the natural landscape and local community. They have continuously looked to reduce their collective carbon footprint, care for the land their potatoes are grown on and consider the economic impact their packing and growing has on local jobs and rural wealth creation. So roast up those spuds without an ounce of guilt!
Whether vegan, veggie or meat lover, trying to eat healthier or simply continuing to eat fresh wholesome produce, it is undeniable that Kent is one of the best counties in which to be a ‘locavore’. A diet title that no matter who you are and what you may eat, you are sure to be able to support with conviction, passion and of course – great taste.