Season of mellow fruitfulness

You may remember my recent In My View in which I lamented how my determination not to waste food led to me staying in to cook if a cauliflower was celebrating its maturity (sell by date) in my fridge. Well, things have moved on since then.

Just recently, I witnessed barbaric food wastage on a massive scale.

On a walk near Bures, I found a field strewn with onions in prime condition. A bit further on, there was a huge heap of potatoes and then a lane literally dripping with plums which no one was picking.

I dreamed of onion and potato soup followed by plum tart.

So why do farmers end up with surplus produce? Around 20 per cent of crops cannot reach the market either because they fail to meet strict cosmetic standards (no blemishes or wonky fruit) set by retailers, or because of over-production.

At a Sudbury supermarket, I was horrified to see New Zealand and Belgian apples on sale during the height of the UK harvest. Bonkers.

There are baskets of apples, plums, pears and even nuts at garden gate sales and being given away in this area as fruit trees unburden a glut all at once in gardens and orchards.

I have now discovered there is an army of people with their knives sharpened, hellbent on getting food to the starving people who need it.

There are 5.8million people in the UK who don’t have a decent diet, while millions of tonnes of decent crops are left to rot.

These fans of zero waste, called gleaners, are saving surplus fruit and veg from farms for food redistribution charities.

I hope to join one of these “arable spring” parties soon and help liberate some captive foodstuffs.

In this area, we have the marvellous transition groups, which put on talks and walks about composting, veg growing and bread making.

Other groups approach the supermarkets which throw out tonnes of perfectly edible food with suspect sell by dates and ship these leftovers to the kitchens of charities where tasty dishes are served to people who need a square meal.

I found out about this when I went to an apple and foraging day in this season of mellow fruitfulness at Flatford recently.

I now have lots of beautiful wonky apples and some oversized pears which I shall store in the outhouse, after I’ve used some in chutney and crumbles.

I tasted some fantastic foraged food, including an elderberry jam, a quince conserve and a delicious apple juice.

I have been gleaning in the hedgerows myself and expanded my repertoire from my annual bottling of sloe gin. I have a box full of clear crab apple jelly and apple chutney.

There is no excuse in these days of bake-offs on the TV and programmes and books on how to preserve; we all know how to, don’t we?

Sales of cake tins and preserving pans have gone through the roof so I hope they are not lurking in the back of the kitchen cupboard and providing a home for the spiders.

Now that’s got me thinking ... what can I do with all those brambles? I know, I’ll just have to stay in and make more jam.