H is for Harvest
What is the harvest?
A lot of the food that we eat is grown or reared in farms across the countryside. As well as dairy farms that produce milk and livestock farms rearing cattle and sheep, many other farms grow a wide variety of crops such as grain, fruit and vegetables.
When a crop has grown and is ready to eat, the farmer must collect it from the fields. This is known as the harvest. Depending upon the crop, the process of harvesting varies a lot.
Grain crops such as wheat and barley are collected by huge combine harvesters. Some fruits are picked by special, tall machines which tower over the trees, these include pears and sometimes apples, but many apples are actually picked by hand. Other fruits that are picked by hand include strawberries.
When is the harvest?
Farmers plant their crops at various times throughout the year, depending on the growing patterns of each crop – some crops benefit from being in the frozen ground over winter, whilst others like to be planted in spring when there is less risk of frosts. As a result, different foods are harvested at different times of the year.
But in all cases, once harvested, the farmer wants to get his produce to markets and shops as fast as possible, so that when you eat it, it’s nice and ripe!
Here’s a short list to give you an idea of when your favourite foods are at their very best in the UK!
- Apples – the best time for picking apples is from October to January
- Blackberries – yum yum when fresh. You’ll find them ready to pick and in shops in August and September
- Brussel sprouts – a treat with Christmas lunch, sprouts are in season between October and February
- Lemons – if you want a tasty lemon that’s grown in this country, you have to wait until the end of December
- Peas – even though you can get them all year, this is only because they are frozen. Peas are actually only in season from May to November
- Pumpkins – suitably for their links with Halloween, pumpkins are in season from October until December
- Strawberries – you find British strawberries during the summer
Find out more about when different fruits and vegtables are in season at www.eattheseasons.co.uk
Harvests around the World
With our list above, you may wonder why you can still buy lemons in July or how your mum still manages to give you apples in the spring!
That’s because a lot of different and out of season fruit and vegetables are grown in far away countries and are shipped or flown to the UK. For example, during spring you’ll see lots of fruits from Southern Hemisphere countries, like apples from South Africa, where for them it’s autumn.
This way we can all buy the food that we want when we want.
However, being patient and waiting for food to come into season locally is actually a good thing. There are a number of reasons why its good to eat more local, seasonal food:
- It reduces the energy (and CO2 emissions) needed to grow and transport the food we eat
- It helps support the local economy
- We reconnect with nature’s cycles and the passing of time
- Most importantly, seasonal food is fresher and so tends to be tastier and more nutritious!
So if you want to support your local farmers and enjoy seasonal food, keep an eye out for a Red Tractor or British Flag, as these are used to mark out food grown locally.
And when you’re in The Co-operative with your parents, look out for their ‘grown by us’ fruit and vegetables, which identifies food grown by The Co-operative, the UK’s largest farmer, on its farms.
To see where your food comes from, you could also visit a local farm!
From Farm to Fork
The Co-operative’s From Farm to Fork scheme enables primary school children like you to visit a Co-operative farm and see how fruit, vegetables and other crops are grown, whilst also learning about the seasons for different crops.
The farm visits aim to inspire you to get passionate about food, about fresh, good quality ingredients and cooking with them.
Hopefully, if you visit one of these farms, you will leave with a greater appreciation for the greater outdoors, gaining an understanding of the importance of farming, both in supplying food and protecting wildlife within its natural habitat.