This was Morrison’s in Chorlton on March 1st 2023. Not a tomato, pepper or cucumber to be seen. But why?
We’ve heard the stories about bad weather, transport and energy costs and post-Brexit red tape. All are to blame: our global supply chains work on just-in-time models, so shortages take very little time to get down to shopping-basket level. Supermarkets import their tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers from Southern Europe and North Africa, over 1,000 miles away.
Independent greengrocers, who tend to rely a little more on domestically-grown produce, are still able to stock their shelves, but at a price. Inflation, road transport and fuel costs are taking their toll – to grow a British tomato in winter, we have to heat enormous glasshouses. There’s a shortage of labour too, so unseasonal crops are becoming less profitable and therefore less sustainable. Growers are selling up because they can’t make ends meet.
Perhaps it’s time we did things differently: perhaps it’s time moved away from the ‘what we want, whenever we want’ culture. We should try to enjoy what’s in season here in the UK. That’s not to say we all have to eat turnips, or give up pizza, but there are lots of fruit and veggies in season during the winter months and we can definitely put a decent, seasonal, meat-free dinner together. And when the sunshine comes, the British tomato will be back!
And get planting! Tomato seeds cost pennies (you can even save them from your garden or salad plate) and with a little effort, you’ll have a whole summer of gorgeous fruits (nothing like the watery, intensively-grown supermarket kind) – for food miles you can count on the fingers of NO hands.