Today’s harvest

It has suddenly turned cold and windy and after some rain yesterday we didn’t need to water the garden.  We’d intended to eat our lunch there, but it was too chilly for that so we just did some work with the tomato plants – tying them and pinching out sideshoots because they are growing so quickly now – and picked vegetables.

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A basket full of lettuce and chard ….

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the chard again, some haricot beans and some last stragglers of mangetout peas, which are nearly over now.

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And in just five minutes or so we picked nearly a kilo of griottes (sour cherries) from our neighbour’s tree, at his invitation.  I’ve put a few in a jar with sugar and Armagnac to leave in the cupboard for at least six months until they make a delicious fruit-filled liqueur which makes a good digestif.  We ate a few of the cherries for lunch, but although they have a good flavour they are quite tart.   Most of them went into a pan, stoned first, with the same weight in jam-making sugar to make three pots of jam.

Global food justice

Today Oxfam UK launched a campaign for global food justice.  I was alerted to it by Blipfoto, the photo journal site on which I post a daily image, when it was suggested that we should have a virtual global picnic to help promote the Oxfam campaign.  This was my contribution (and a very good lunch too):

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All the food and wine in this photo except the slice of lemon (from Spain) comes from the village where I live or the nearby sea.  The global food and environmental crisis is something I think about a lot, and have written about on my food and gardening blogs for several years. In order to help change the world, we in western countries have to accept that our lives must change and that we cannot continue to exploit developing countries for our needs. As my small contribution to this, I try to eat only food that comes from within 100 kilometres of where I live and I grow as much of my own as I can.

We shouldn’t expect developing countries to grow the products which make our lives easier or more pleasant, at the expense of those people’s needs. An article in yesterday’s Guardian by Felicity Lawrence highlighted the problems of people in Guatemala who grow palm oil for biofuels so that people in rich countries can feel less guilty about driving their cars while the workers themselves are unable to feed their families properly.

Apart from concern about my carbon footprint, sustainability and my share of the earth’s resources, I have selfish reasons for eating local food – it tastes so much better if it hasn’t travelled long distances and especially so if it’s been grown in our own garden!

>Slavery in Europe – another reason to grow your own

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Here in southern France we see the Spanish lorries racing along the motorway taking salad produce from the south of Spain to northern European supermarkets, as well as our own shops and markets in the Languedoc, using up the earth’s resources to satisfy shoppers’ need for out-of-season vegetables. There are many arguments against this industry, to do with pollution, water and energy conservation as well as humanitarian concerns. Year-round fresh salads – tomatoes, lettuces, peppers – may seem like an affordable luxury, almost a necessity even, these days, but they come at great human cost to the workers who grow them in the polythene-covered acres of once dry land in southern Spain.

On the Guardian website today there’s a report by Felicity Lawrence about the poverty, deprivation and terrible living conditions experienced by immigrant workers from Africa, who now find themselves without even the low-paid work they used to have and are unable to return home because they cannot afford it. These people, when they can find work, are paid much less than the minimum wage and cannot complain because of their unofficial status in Europe. As the activist interviewed at the end of the film puts it, we should refuse to buy produce that results from this form of exploitation.

The video lasts for over 12 minutes, but it’s worth watching to see another side of ‘holiday’ Spain. Here’s the link: tp://gu.com/p/2md95

And then we should all avoid those plastic-packed, unnaturally perfect-looking Little Gem lettuces and eat locally grown, seasonal food.