In praise of the humble cauliflower…..
Did you know, that apparently this great British veggie staple could be about to disappear from our shelves? Soon, the only creamy curds to grace the supermarket shelves could be those of foreign cauliflowers, as our local growers are forced to give up. And why?
Well, here’s a surprise (excuse my sarcasm): whilst it costs the farmer 35p to produce each cauliflower, this year s/he has only actually been paid about 18p for it, by said supermarket; yet the average UK retail price is 68p – making the supermarket a tidy profit of 33p on every cauli they’ve sold. With the extra food miles the imported caulis will have travelled, along with the loss of vitamins etc en route, these veggies will be considerably less fresh by the time they reach the consumer’s plate. It’s positively criminal, when you think that we could – & should, be growing said staple food right here in the UK.
So what can we do about it? Support the UK growers by checking the provenance of your veg before you buy; & if you can do so, purchase preferably via a veg box scheme or your local greengrocer (if you have one). And lobby your local supermarket about paying a fair price to farmers in this country: after all, the Government encourages fair trade for foreign farmers; what about making sure such charity begins at home?
But why should we get so excited about an ordinary, everyday thing like a cauliflower? A member of the brassica family (like broccoli) the absence of the green pigment chlorophyll gives this vegetable its delectably snowy colour. High in Vitamin C (100g provides over 70% of the adult RDA) it’s also a good source of B6 & folate (B9). Its origins are unclear but we know it was eaten in Italy & Turkey as early as 600 BC. Widely used in Indian cuisine & a staple of vegetarians, traditionally only the white part (the curd) is eaten although the leaves & stalk can be added to stock to improve flavour & add vital vitamins.
The unpleasant smell associated with the vegetable comes from sulpur released during cooking – basically the longer you boil it, the stinkier it gets! However, it’s delicious eaten raw in a salad or as a crudité with dips. Choose your cauliflower when it is still white rather than browning; & the leaves should be a healthy green. Basically, if the stalk doesn’t snap it’s been around a while…!
Store it in a paper bag in the fridge for up to a week (they tend to sweat if wrapped in plastic which causes the florets to go mouldy). Avoid pre-packaged, ready-trimmed & washed caulis: whilst they might look nice they’ve probably been washed in a chlorine solution & will have a lower vitamin content.
So come on folks – support your local grower -buy responsibly & keep this great British staple on our plates! Here’s a recipe to whet your appetites…..
VEG RECIPE: LEMON-BAKED CAULIFLOWER
1x onion, finely chopped; 100g butter, softened; 2x tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped; 2x garlic cloves, minced; 1x tbsp unwaxed lemon rind, finely grated; 1x tsp salt; ½x tsp ground black pepper; ¼x tsp grated nutmeg; 1x large cauliflower, cored & broken into generous florets.
Thoroughly mix together all the ingredients except for the cauliflower. Place the cauilflower pieces on a large piece of kitchen foil & spread the mixture over the vegetable. Bring the foil up into a closed parcel & seal the edges. Place on a baking sheet & cook in a prheated oven at 200°C / 375°F for one hour or until tender. Serves four as a main course or six as an accompaniment, with the lemon sauce drizzled over – different, delicious warming winter food!
So apart from getting stirred by the supermarkets’ brassica massacre, we had a busy Saturday, with Tony restocking the hay store & me enduring sleet showers emptying & scrubbing all the water troughs & buckets. As the ponies were ‘muddy’ miserable we decided enough was enough & we simply must move them regardless of the weather forecast. As Parc Gwair – the terraced field adjacent to the barns & normally the field of choice at this time of year – is currently out of commission being only partially fenced owing to the building works, our only option is to take them to the upper pasture known as Parc Ysgyfarnog or the ‘Harefield’, which has plenty of grass & lots of shelter belt (although the Shetlands tend to use the bigger horses as their own mobile field shelters!).
The major problem however, is that since the leat down by the old bridge was washed away in the terrible storms last Spring, there is no longer water running through the fields during the winter months. Subsequently we would need to move a trough into the field & refill it on a regular basis. As our largest trough would need topping up every other day we opted to go into Carmarthen & purchase a larger one to reduce that particular burden (we have constructed a homemade bowser built from an old water butt which is secured in the back of our truck taking about fifteen minutes to fill & another fifteen to empty; so although not physically hard work it is unfortunately quite time-consuming).
As it’s quite a long round trip we tend to make the most of our journey by combining visits to as many other shops to pick up essentials, as possible. Subsequently by the time we arrived home it was almost dusk, as the weather had closed in again & fat droplets of rain were pounding the farm once more. Not wishing to put the ponies in an unfamiliar field just before dark as they’d inevitably want a good gallop we decided to move them the following morning – better safe than sorry, after all…..
Not great weather for the Celtic festival of Imbolc, traditionally celebrated today to mark the coming of warmer weather & the growing of things after the long sleep of Winter. Here today, it seems Spring is not so much a season but a fountainhead of water; & they’re everywhere except where they should be!