Two for Christmas...

Lynda Brown - 30 November 2012

Fenland Celery

Fenland celery. Image reproduced by kind permission of the Fenland celery website.

I've just received an email from Slow Food UK about their eminently worthwhile Eat it or Lose it initiative, part of their Forgotten Foods campaign which is trying to encourage everyone to support our traditional foods and breeds. Good timing because It gives me the perfect opportunity to do two things I almost never do: praise supermarkets, or in this case, Waitrose; and wax lyrical about non-organic veg.

This year sees the re-introduction of traditional Fenland celery which Waitrose is not only selling but currently has on an offer at an irresistible £1 (only 10p more than their ‘basic celery’). It’s only available Oct-Dec (so hurry!) and is easily the best celery I have tasted in a long while: sweet, nutty, and full of thirst-quenching crunch, plus lots of lovely leaves, which I use as a fresh chopped winter herb. Anyone who has ever tried to grow celery and earth it up in the traditional way will tell you what a thankless, messy, hit and miss task it is, another reason to give it a thumbs up.

At this time of the year, Waitrose also stock Russell Burgess heritage potatoes (so apparently, do Ocado): a collection of traditional varieties prized by potato buffs such as Shetland Black, Fortyfold, and Kerrs Pink. The point of these potatoes is not just the fact that they are living biodiversity treasures but that they taste like proper potatoes - something unless you grow them for yourselves, or are lucky enough to live near an inspirational organic box scheme/grower such as The Veg Shed near Tetbury - is a rarity these days. Unlike the Fenland celery, at £2kg bag, these designer jobbies seem expensive but actually are not, especially compared to a bag of Waitrose baby potatoes - the ones that were once thrown away – which weigh in at £2.14kg, or their salad potatoes which weigh it at an outlandish £2.98kg.

Both Fenland celery and Heritage potatoes are being grown by commercial growers.For once I haven't drilled deep about how they are grown; in fact I don't particularly want to know in case I don’t 'approve'. For me, it raises an interesting dilemma: are there times when non-organic is worth supporting if it brings traditional veg to the nation?. But you know what, it's Christmas and I'm not even going there. For once, I'm just going to enjoy them and be grateful that we have growers still prepared to keep our artisan veggies alive.

Lynda is an award-winning food writer and broadcaster, and keen advocate for organic living. She is author of several food books over the last twenty years including Planet Organic: Organic Living, The Cook's Garden, and The Modern Cook's Handbook, as well as writing The Preserving Book that was published in 2010 in association with the Soil Association. Lynda is an expert on food and nutrition and a seasoned broadcaster, regularly speaking on food and farming both on the radio and television.

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02 November 2013 22:26

Maybe next Christmas I will do what you said in this article!

02 December 2012 16:32

I've noticed over the last few years that supermarkets stock less organic fruit and veg in the run in to Christmas so they can make more room for the faster selling chemicaly grown selections - also fair trade items seem to disappear .... must make room for more profitable items!

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