Bridging The Hunger Gap [WFJ #59]
April's dearth makes it arguably the worst month for growers and veg-loving locavores. But that doesn't mean we can't still eat well
As is the reality in temperate climates such as ours, growing vegetables all year round can be a bit of a challenge.
That’s especially true of now, when the winter crops have been harvested, but limited sunlight and lingering cold means the new season’s bounty is some way off. Among veg growers, this period – between March and June – is informally known as ‘The Hungry Gap’, and, depending on the year and what you’re growing, usually April is its leanest month.
A more poetic description comes on behalf of Charles Dowding, who refers to this “difficult” time of year as “Winter’s Long Shadow”. Charles’ garden, if you aren’t already familiar with his 600k-subscriber-strong YouTube channel, is in Alhampton near Castle Cary. “I remember some dire Aprils and Mays in the mid-‘80s,” Charles tells The WFJ, “when there was indeed a [particularly] significant gap between winter and summer vegetables.”
As a result, local market gardens’ offerings have a fair bit of ‘topping up’ to do. At the moment, as much as half of a local veg box can be reliant on produce from elsewhere, which involves sourcing more from abroad, either directly or – most commonly in these parts – via The Community Farm in Chew Magna. For local growers, the goal is to ultimately offer what is seasonal, but not so much as to knacker their consumer base with the so-called ‘swede fatigue’.
It’s a lot different to how things used to be, at least. When Riverford was getting going in the late ‘80s, most other veg box schemes would rather shut down for four months than endure the embarrassment of delivering seemingly endless supplies of turnips, kale, and potatoes.