European fruit and vegetable crops hit by bad weather

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Spain, in particular the south-eastern regions of Murcia and Valencia, experienced unusually wet weather conditions in December; there was more rain in the four days before Christmas than the regions usually experience in a year. This resulted in extensive flooding, which has adversely affected the harvest. As a lot of the UK’s fresh produce comes from these areas during the winter, this has severely affected the availability and price of a wide range of produce.

Which products are worst affected?

Salad and leaves have been seriously affected. Most of the crop of spinach, endive and lettuces, including iceberg, gem, cos and lollo, from these regions has been lost. Tomatoes, aubergine, celery, peppers, courgettes and cucumbers have also been badly hit, creating considerable shortages in supply.

The flooding also hit fields of lemon and clementine trees and although this has not affected the crops in the same way as with ground-grown produce, the restricted access to fields has resulted in limited amounts of citrus fruit being harvested.


Alternative supplies

Normally, if there are problems with Spanish crops, it would be possible to source produce from other European countries, such as Italy and France, however, both have recently experienced unexpected snowfall and freezing conditions that have halted the harvest. Wintery conditions across Europe also mean that transporting produce, such as mushrooms from Poland, is problematic.

While alternative sources of some crops do exist, such as tomatoes and peppers from Morocco, there are not enough alternatives to make up the shortfall. As a result, poor availability and high prices are inevitable and consumers are already experiencing both in shops.

weather-2Our recommendations

For anyone in the hospitality industry, in particular food procurement teams, hotel and restaurant managers and chefs, the shortage of a wide variety of fresh produce is likely to make for a challenging time. Producing high-quality dishes at a price customers are happy to pay may prove difficult. As such, PSL recommends using alternatives, opting for homegrown produce wherever possible.

Given these severe climatic conditions in Europe further enforces the general recommendation to use where possible seasonal British produce when it is at its best, most abundant and most cost effective. Root vegetables such as carrots, parsnips, celeriac and beetroot are currently in plentiful supply and are recommended when planning menus. Replacements for salad and leaf vegetables can include cabbage, kale, watercress and lamb’s lettuce.

root-2How long will this last?

The adverse weather in Europe is ongoing and PSL will provide updates at as we receive them. The harvest of citrus fruit is expected to resume as flooding subsides and it’s hoped there will be little impact on the quality of the fruit. As the weather warms, transportation issues should also be resolved.

Unfortunately, many of the ground-based crops have now been lost and supplies are not expected to recover before the end of the imported produce season in April/May. Until then limited availability and higher prices are somewhat inevitable.

A variety of healthy and organic nuts and seeds in piles on a slate surface.

Lifestyle News: The Latest Superfoods

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Lifestyle News: The Latest Superfoods

Additions are being made to the steadily growing list of superfoods almost every week. Indeed, no sooner have we memorised the types of fruits and vegetables, grains and pulses that are good for us than something else is added. However, what is a superfood, and just how integral are they to our diets?

The concept of the superfood

Often regarded as being something of a hippy, or trendy, concept, a superfood is one that contains additional vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, amino acids, plant enzymes, antioxidants and nutrients; an ingredient that goes the extra mile in terms of its ability to support a healthy lifestyle. Superfoods are those renowned for their nutritional value and potential healing powers and, while there is little scientific evident to support their dominance over other food groups, they’re generally accepted as promoting healthy living.

There’s a good chance you’ve already heard about the benefits of certain superfoods, such as blackberries, which contain antioxidants, olive oil, which it is claimed helps in the battle against numerous types of cancer, and quinoa, a complete protein that is gluten-free. However, have you ever heard of maca root or black rice, or noted the healing powers of dark chocolate? It could be time to familiarise yourself with the notion of micronutrients…

Britain’s relationship with superfoods

According to John Mathers, a professor of human nutrition at Newcastle University: “There is no such thing as a superfood. It is more to do with hype than health and people are wising up to the idea that super is not particularly super.” It certainly does beggar belief that foods we’ve been eating for hundreds of years are suddenly said to be much better for us than ever before. Does that mean the concept of superfoods should be completely disregarded? Surely not, if it encourages the general population to eat more healthily it must be a good thing.

Despite numerous news reports of late suggesting we’re falling out of love with yesterday’s buzzword, the issue of superfoods is a complicated one. The truth is we just don’t know how special, or extraordinary they are, but their overexposure has driven us all to be more wary of what we’re eating.

What we should be eating

While the concept of superfoods and their importance above other types of food, may have been called into question more than once in recent years, it’s certainly true that eating such foods can be good for you. Indeed, the CDC’s list of “powerhouse” foods is dominated by a range of foodstuffs said to be packed with more key nutrients per calorie than many other types; foods with the potential to improve the overall health and wellbeing of those choosing to consume them.

This list of so-called powerhouse foods includes cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, pumpkin, broccoli, red pepper, kale, lettuce, spinach, and watercress; all of them strong, traditional flavours that many households already enjoy. Other foods recently bestowed with a super status and often said to aid weight loss, are salmon, quinoa, coconut oil, edamame beans, grapefruit, raspberries, avocado, almonds, white tea and goji berries, while ginger, garlic, radish, fresh carrot juice, pomegranates, green beans, and guavas tend to increase in popularity around the winter months. Packed full of flavour and antioxidants, such ingredients can complement a healthy diet and ward off coughs, colds, and other common winter ailments.

There’s a lot to be said about superfoods, not all of it encouraging or particularly flattering. Regardless of whether these foods are truly super or not, there’s a lot to be said for the healing powers of a healthy, balanced diet – and very little to lose by adding a few of these so-called superfoods to our shopping lists each week. So, when the next alleged superfood comes along, which it no doubt will, perhaps we should ask ourselves how it could be incorporated into our diets, rather than whether it deserves a metaphorical cape.