Apart from perhaps selling less salads and adding more hearty fare to the menu what does this time of year mean for restaurateurs?
The effect of the seasons changing and the end of the summer can have quite an effect on what you place on the menu and it’s a time when the age old argument rears its head once more to ask you to consider whether to use seasonal produce or not to limit yourself to solely what is available during the autumn months.
In 2008 Gordon Ramsay stated that he believed that British restaurants should be fined for serving fruit and vegetables that were not in season and the Soil Association’s Food for Life Partnership director Emma Noble said the celebrity chef was right to suggest that “seasonal menus are a key step in cutting the environmental impact of our food” and agreed that seasonal menus were an important way to cut the environmental impact of our food. “If schools can do it, chefs and restaurants should do it too.”
With many initiatives actively encouraging the practice of seasonal eating it’s clear that this is a subject that has been given a lot of consideration.
Of course many restaurants already alter menus seasonally to include produce that is available around that time but not many exclusively cut out produce that is not naturally available in that season. Of course during the colder months we are more disposed to seek out more hearty fare such as the root vegetables that come into season during these months as much as we’re more likely to seek out fresh strawberries and salads in June.
But why is it even considered an issue? There are many reason for serving seasonal food; the energy and resultant co2 emissions required to transport out of season food from around the world for example, to avoid paying a premium for food that is scarcer or has travelled a long way (research has shown that a basket of fruit and veg bought in the summer can be as much as a third cheaper than the same basket bought out of season), to support the local economy, to reconnect with nature’s cycles and the passing of time, but, most importantly, because seasonal food is fresher and so tends to be tastier and more nutritious.
In terms of the environmental issues growing fruit and veg in season also requires lower levels of artificial inputs like heating, lighting, pesticides and fertilisers than at other times of the year, another way it positively affects the environment not to mention showing this level of social responsibility as I’ve mentioned in previous articles has become somewhat of a driving factor in where modern diners will choose to eat.
Though it may all seem that seasonal eating in beneficial in every way to give a fair and balanced outlook there are downsides. Following Gordon Ramsays outspoken attack on restaurants using out of season produce Oxfam’s Duncan Green said: “I’m sure the million farmers in East Africa who rely on exporting their goods to scrape a living would see Gordon Ramsay’s assertions as a recipe for disaster … It is vital we ensure that poor people who are already hit hardest by climate change are not made to suffer even further.”
So it seems that either way there is no global right answer to the problem and whether or not you use seasonal produce in your restaurant is down merely to your individual cause, whether it’s flavour and freshness, the environment, supporting local producers or assisting people in third world farmers out of poverty.
At the end of the day the choice lies solely in the hands of the restaurateur and chef but it’s still something that should not be overlooked or dealt with without consideration.
Food for thought: What’s good when
Autumn: Marrows, blackberries, celery, kale, elderberries, pumpkins
Winter: Turnips, leeks, parsnips, brussels sprouts, beetroot and cauliflowers
Spring: Purple sprouting broccoli, rhubarb, spring onions, radishes, watercress, spinach
Summer: Asparagus, artichokes, broad beans, carrots, courgettes, runner beans, cucumbers, onions, peas, raspberries, plums
For more information on eating seasonally visit: