Tuesday 9 March | Kirsten McLaren

For her #100DaysOfGreenNevis project, cellist Kirsten McLaren is committing to buying only seasonal and local produce.

It has become very easy to eat whatever food we want at any time of the year, but at what cost to the environment?  Energy used to force plants to crop out of season, vast numbers of food miles as fruit and veg is shipped from all corners of the world and all for produce that is lacking in flavour.  So for my challenge I decided to commit to only buying seasonal British produce for 100 days.  To make it even more difficult I’m also trying to avoid buying imported tinned and frozen produce, though I am allowing myself to use up food I already had in the store cupboard and freezer (which includes the 2020 European runner bean mountain, a few tubs of chopped tomatoes and some Swiss chard all of which came from my garden last summer).

It’s been fun seeking out and trying new recipes and finding that cooked differently the veg I disliked as a child and have avoided since can actually be really tasty.  I still dislike roast parsnip but spiced parsnip soup has been a revelation and I’ll be making another batch this week before the last of this winter’s British parsnips disappear from the shops.  I’ve also made an equally tasty roasted root vegetable soup – the roasted veg looked really tempting before going into the blender, so I’m thinking this might make an interesting risotto at some point in the next couple of weeks.

Another discovery has been a roasted vegetable Yorkshire pudding traybake – a kind of vegetable version of toad in the hole and 100% British.  Frustratingly the supermarket I used that week had decided to import their kale from Spain, despite British kale still being in season, but that frozen Swiss chard made a good substitute.  This week I’m planning a leek and greens lasagne.

Kale wasn’t the first instance of a supermarket importing a vegetable when British should be available: just a week into the 100 days I was faced with the dilemma of having to choose between bagged British onions (single use plastic bag) or loose onions imported from Tasmania.  I’m still waiting for that supermarket to respond to my enquiry about why they felt it was necessary to import onions from the other side of the world when British onions were clearly available.

While the challenge has definitely brought a wider range of vegetables into my diet, with fruit the opposite is the case – the only British fresh fruit available at this time of year is apples.  I’ve yet to find out whether I’ll be able to buy frozen British fruits – in another few weeks even Apples may not be available so I’m making the most of them while I can. 

As we go into March I’m looking forward to trying several of the 10 ways to enjoy purple sprouting broccoli that Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall suggests in his book “The River Cottage Year”, which has been a useful guide to identifying what seasonal produce should be available.  March will also bring Rhubarb into season and although I’m not a big fan it will be a nice alternative to apples! 

April sees the arrival of the “hungry gap” when it’s too warm for the winter veg but too early for the spring/summer veg to be cropping.  I’ve sown some lettuce seeds indoors in the hope of some early leaves to help me through.  These are in a trough which is now occupying my music room window ledge – well if music (anecdotally) helps cows produce more milk maybe it will help my early lettuce to grow strong and healthy!

From 1 February 2021, Nevis is running #100DaysOfGreenNevis, where our musicians, staff and trustees will each take on a task for 100 days linked to Sustainability. We’d love you to join us, either by following the campaign online to get ideas of what you can do, or to show us you own actions for us to share. If you would like to know more, do get in touch at georgina@nevisensemble.org 

Nevis Ensemble’s #GreenNevis campaign in 2019 won the Environmental Sustainability award at the 2020 Scottish Awards for New Music, and was shortlisted for Best Campaign by Julie’s Bicycle.