Activism - Active ingredients
Claire Ritchie finds some inspiration for your dinner plate
What we eat, where our food comes from and how we eat it all have a huge impact on our local and global environment – and, happily, it only takes a few small changes to the way we approach our food to make a difference. Local, seasonal food is cheaper, tastes better, and doesn’t hike up the food miles or produce nasty carbon emissions. Bonus.
The cheapest way to make a food difference is to grow your own – and you don’t even need a garden. Salad leaves and herbs will grow happily in window boxes, while veg like runner beans, carrots, cabbages and even potatoes can thrive in a pot on a patio or balcony. If you really don’t have space to grow your own veg at home, consider applying for an allotment. They take a fair bit of time and energy commitment, but the rewards of free food that you’ve grown yourself are more than worth the effort. Find out how to apply through your local council: www.glasgow.gov.uk or www.edinburgh.gov.uk. And, on a similar note, why not don your balaclava and try a spot of guerrilla gardening? www.guerrillagardening.org, the gardening equivalent of graffiti, planting seeds and plants in neglected urban land on the sneak.
Perhaps the next best thing is to join a local veg box scheme. That way you can be assured of the seasonality and provenance of the produce, while at the same time supporting local businesses. Phantassie Farm and East Coast Organics near Edinburgh, My Local Farm in central Scotland, and Grow Wild in Glasgow are just some of the schemes operating across the country. Find your local box scheme through www.soilassociation scotland.org, where there is also some helpful advice on joining or setting up an organic buying group.
With all those veg plants springing up in your garden or allotment you’re going to be needing some compost – and what’s the point in buying it when you can make your own? Waste Aware Scotland has helpful advice on how to turn your food scraps into lovely fresh compost: www.wasteawarescotland.org.uk
Food co-ops are springing up all over the place in a bid to provide cheap, healthy food to people on lower incomes or just the community-minded. By buying in bulk and distributing at cost price, the middle man is cut out and shoppers reap the financial benefits. The North Glasgow Community Food Initiative www.ngcfi.org.uk and the Edinburgh Community Food Initiative www.ecfi.org.uk are just two such schemes.
It should be apparent by now that eating local food is the key. It reduces food miles, cuts down on food waste and simply tastes better. Fact. Take inspiration from the people who started the Fife Diet (www.fifediet.co.uk) or go foraging for your own free local food – there’s something to be sniffed out whatever the season. Check out www.wildmanwildfood.com for helpful foraging tips.
OK, so growing your own veg is all well and good, but we all need to step into a shop once in a while. A life lived on cabbages and lettuce alone would be rather dull, it’s true. When it comes to shopping, however, it is still possible to make a difference. Make an effort to shop locally, avoiding the big supermarket chains, and support your local farmers’ market. Visit www.scottishfarmers markets.co.uk to find your nearest one. If the weather turns or you just can’t make it to the market on the right day, consider doing the weekly shop at somewhere like Earthy in Edinburgh, one of the marvellous local food markets that are springing up these days: www.earthy.co.uk
Finally, it pays to learn a little about the Slow Food movement, a non-profit organisation aimed at re-kindling people’s interest in and passion for good food. Local groups organise farm visits, supper get-togethers, cookery demos by local chefs – and these are not just open to members; everybody’s welcome. www.slowfoodedinburgh.co.uk