Not to pick on the Brits, who were involved in my last rant concerning the isle of Wight’s Ventnor Gardens, but now I’m hearing that there’s a vegetable shortage on the other side of the Atlantic that’s accelerated to the point of rationing. It’s blamed on a wide range of factors, but poor weather hindering southern European and African growers, high energy prices making greenhouse production difficult and Brexit labor shortages seem to be the main ones.

Labor, energy coasts, bad weather – that can happen anywhere and cause problems anywhere. It happens here and causes different problems.

But it did make me think about seasonal eating. One of the complaints I heard on an NPR report was that the supermarket shelves were almost cleared of tomatoes. I would not be able to say how many tomatoes are on our local shelves this month because I never buy them at this time of year and I’m not looking for them.  (Our winter eating is often more along the lines of stews or shepherd’s pies like the one shown at top.)

Well before the farm-to-table movement became fashionable, I learned that in winter, good-quality canned tomatoes or those you have canned yourself are the way to go. I don’t think the prices are that different, either, especially with the less fancy canned tomatoes, which are still great in winter recipes.

Sure you may not be able to have a plate of sliced heirlooms with fresh basil, but why should you? It’s winter and they are simply not growing locally. I accept this.

At this time of year, we’re eating roasted root vegetables, making butternut squash soup and taking advantage of hydroponic lettuce. Thanks in large part to cannabis growers, I suppose, the range of cheap lighting has made it easier for many to grow things inside. 

On a large scale, those energy costs might be higher, but I don’t think these small operations are heavy lifts, financially. 

It should be clear that I am not doing these things myself, but am taking advantage of small local growers who offer food shares even in the wintertime. It helps to live in a city that’s surrounded by farms and encourages urban farming. 

We had a terrible lesson last May of what depending on one nearby supermarket can lead to – as a result, hydroponic growing operations, small food- co-ops and community gardens are being encouraged more than ever before.

This has underlined the importance of taking control of your access to food as much as possible. I know I could probably buy more food more cheaply elsewhere with what I pay for my CSA, but the stuff is great – the difference between a store apple and an apple from my CSA is amazing.

I would not be expecting any tomatoes from them in February, though. And that’s the way it should be.