<a href="https://www.greenlifestylemag.com.au/blogs/richard#">Life in the Slow Food Lane</a>

Life in the Slow Food Lane

A look at the eco side of eating, with Richard Cornish

How do you know when food is in season?

Fruit market

Credit: Wikimedia

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I am not one to normally eavesdrop into other peoples' conversations but I did hear something that disturbed me.

Two women were in a city café, having a latte before they started work, from which I garnered, was in the same office. "Oh yes," said one. "Tomatoes are in season." "How did you know," said the other. "I saw them in the supermarket," was the reply.

Now I am not criticizing either of these people for not knowing that in their part of the world tomatoes are good three months away from being really in full swing. What was bought to my attention was the question, "How did you know?".

Yes, how do we know when fruit and vegetables and to a lesser extent, meat is in season? I am a food journalist and, to tell you the truth, even I find it quite difficult often to find out when a particular food is at its seasonal best in any given year.

The supermarkets are the most confusing places for information as these are harsh lit halls of seasonless bounty where all the ordering is done from Bella Vista in Sydney for Woolworths or Tooronga Village in Melbourne for Coles.

The vegetable growers association do its best to obfuscate the question because they don't want the consumer to think that there is not a good time of the year to buy any particular piece of fruit or a vegetable.

Year round there are images of shiny apples promoting fresh food sections of markets and supermarkets but there is only a three-month window in which they are being actively harvested. For the rest of the year the fruit is being taken out off energy guzzling controlled atmosphere coolrooms.

For me, I am still shopping at the Farmer's Markets not just for the fruit and veggies but for the information.

As a food writer my job is to know what is happening on the ground. I do this by reading a variety of media, both old world and online, but I get most of my information from the growers themselves.

I either have to ring them up, visit their farm or, in the best case scenario for everyone, visit the weekly farmers' market and get the word from the land from the horses' mouth. At the same time I get to know what's in season that week and how all the other crops are tracking.

No longer living on the land, as I did when I grew up, means that I have to really concentrate to know what is best to eat and when. But it's my job to know when food is at its best and to pass that information on the readers. I also have a young family to feed and I want to give them the best. Sometimes doing the best for one's family is not the easiest course - but it can be the most rewarding.