17 Jul 2012

Less Potatoes, No Peas, More Slugs, No Bees - What Wet Weather Means For Food Supplies

This week's news seems to center around the two topics: how to hold a successful event in wet weather and how lack of foresight can lead to a dangerous lack of availability. The lesson is clear: when planning an event, never ignore the warning signs!

Similarly, woe betide the caterer who doesn't note the warning signs around the availability of ingredients, especially at the moment.

This summer's persistent rainfall and general lack of sunshine has meant terrible growing conditions for most British crops. As you can imagine, I have been keeping a very (very) close eye on farming news of late. Planning my menus around the ever-changing availability of ingredients is as important as adapting the event logistics and marquee aesthetics to suit wet weather. 

My two most reliable sources of up-to-date information are:

Syngenta - keeping an eye on news affecting crops Syngenta-Crop.co.uk
Pauleys - for watching out for crops "in the red" Pauleys.co.uk

Here are a few food related points that I noted from the last weeks reports:

Strawberry farmers in some parts of the country are reporting the "worst season in years" whilst others are suffering from a lack of demand as consumers shiver indoors with hot puddings.

Potatoes, particularly British varieties, have suffering not only from the wet soil but also the tough harvesting conditions - mud and flooding is not heavy vehicle friendly! The crop is being propped up French imports but it's a shame as I love British potatoes.
Leafy, green vegetables might be lower in quality because of the lack of sun for example broccoli, bok choi, lettuce, Savoy cabbage and curly kale.

Parsnips appear to be the surprise winners of the weather pattern although we're getting a lot of imports from Spain.

Asparagus (a famed British delicacy) has had a very odd season season. After a great early crop in March, we then had to wait for an unprecedented late start of the bulk season which didn't kick off until late May.
British Asparagus Association - End of the Season: Goodbye! 

Pea farmers are worried about a rise in disease because wind and rain creates a "perfect storm" for Botrytis Grey Mould. Wet flowers stick to the leaves and after infection cause the stem and pods to rot.
Fruit is also affected, not least because rain affects bees ability to pollinate. some farmers are already warning it might be a case of "hunt the apple" come Autumn with some predicting only a tenth of normal crop will be available this year. Imports, again, will be important.

Sadly whilst the bees hate the wet weather the SLUGS love it! 
Photo WikiCommons / Guttorm Flatabø
I'm going to have to upload some pictures of my new “Bovingdons” vegetable garden so that you can see how it has been turned into a veritable mollusc hotel!

Other than that, it's all about planning in advance, ordering from the best suppliers and ensuring that the majority of my clients remain blissfully unaware of what is going on in the fields.