Sunday, 8 November 2009

Food for thought

'So they don't come from Brussels then?'

Er, no.

'And that's the way they grow?'


'See, I told you they don't come in a bag like frozen peas!'

You had to be there I suppose, in the queue at Boston market. And and in the immortal words of Mr Tom Jones, such things are not unusual.

'We get that all the time,' the woman on the veg stall told me. 'People even take photos of 'em sometimes...'


Yes, folks. Really. So just to be clear: this is where brussel sprouts come from. Not Iceland. Not Brussels. Boston market.

And while we're on the subject, meat doesn't come from the supermarket, and milk isn't made in milk factories. I haven't always been this food savvy, but living in the middle of the country's main veg producing area, you can't help picking up a few choice facts.

Apparently such knowledge isn't universal, which is just one reason why The Potato Story is touring schools and educating kids about food provenance. In the wake of recent e-coli outbreak, trips to farm parks have declined dramatically. Some children grow up without knowing anything about where their food is coming from. A survey by McCain discovered 1 in 10 children between the ages seven and eleven think that chickens lay potatoes, and 1 in 5 have no idea that chips come from the humble spud. As someone whose motto has always been that ignorance is seldom bliss, I'm more than a little worried. Because not knowing about the stuff you eat stacks the odds in favour of the manufacturer. And - much as I'd like to believe otherwise - most of the time its their balance sheet that's uppermost in their mind, and not your health.

It's worth checking the ingredients on those packets, sourcing that supply of eggs and meat. And while you're at it, iPod and iPhone users can niftily compare the salt and sodium content of their food with the new FSA Salt Application. Crunch the numbers and it tells you whether what you're eating is ok for everyday consumption or should - at best - be something like a rare treat. Shake it, and it gives a range of handy tips about cutting down your salt intake, substituting healthier alternatives without sacrificing flavour. It's simple to use and can be age specific, making it handy to have while family shopping in the supermarket.

Ultimately, I suppose the best way to teach kids about food and healthy eating is to get them to get their hands dirty. And - thanks to The Potato Story - I've got a lovely little gardening kit to give away. It's the perfect thing for getting little fingers green (or worse). All you've got to do is leave a comment between now and Tuesday. It's that easy. What do you do to keep your family food savvy?

And you know what grows from little acorns, don't you?

Yes, you've got it - Brussel Sprouts!


  1. Now that IS a great post. Having grown up on a small holding I knew where everything came from and, unfortunatly, exactly how it was killed for food. But, if a person is going to eat meat it is best to appreciate what it was before it landed on the supper plate. I'd love a gardening kit for N3S so so I'm hoping I'll be the lucky winner for this post.

  2. I remember being staggered the first time my mum grew a Brussel Sprouts 'Tree'! I was lucky growing up as we grew all our own veg and it was one of my chores to help pick it. I am determined to do the same (when I can upgrade from my postage stamp back yard) so Kai can experience that too. I think this a great way of helping children to understood where food comes from, plus I think they're more likely to eat their greens if they had a hand in growing them.

    Right now though I'm just concentrating on teaching Kai that food goes in his mouth and not smeared in his hair or thrown at me. Will figure the rest out later ;)

    Would love a gardening kit please!! My mum has a huge garden and Kai would love to potter about with her in the mud!

  3. This year in my tiny back garden my girls and I grew potatoes, courgettes, Peas, chilli's, peppers and carrots in pots (plus the normal tomato plants). What did we learn, courgettes do brilliantly, peppers and chillis are OK and everything else really needs a bit more room for their roots. But we had a fab time and are already thinking about what to grown next year!

  4. I'm sure I was taught all about where food came from at infant school when I was a lad - seems ridiculous if it's no longer on the curriculum. Such a fundamental piece of knowledge!

  5. I must be one of the few people in the world who ENJOYS eating brussell sprouts! XD

  6. An interesting post, Tim. You have got me thinking. I must talk to my 6 year old about where different foods come from, there is a danger that she may still assume thats some come from Stressco's.

  7. Oh it just distresses me so much that children don't know what broccoli is. Even if they throw it on the floor, they should at least know what it is. On the subject, I saw something on the TV last week which caused a whole new level of food alarm in our house - something called 'Mechanically Recovered Meat' - this is something you DO NOT wish to be eating. Check those labels. Good luck with the organic veg farm!

  8. I, too, am one of the rare people who likes brussels sprouts.

    When we moved house we planted cucumber seeds so my son (who loves eating them) would have something positive at the 'new house' to enjoy. [And he did!] Little did we realise we had also bought a garden full of raspberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries, apples (eaters and cookers), damsons, grapes, blackberries and strawberries. Next year we plan to be much better gardeners (and cooks!) and enjoy this fruit a lot more!

  9. As I was born and bred in Boston, I am sadly only too aware of what brussel sprouts look like - holiday jobs were often as pickers of that crop but thankfully I always managed to find employemnt in the far superior role of quality control checking daffodil bulbs. Ah, the rural idyll...

  10. Glad to see I'm not in a minority of one regarding brussel sprouts! And thanks for all the wonderful responses so far... things aren't as bad as I thought!

  11. Ah, i'd love to go to a market again! Youve given me a mission now. Good post xxx

  12. I love sprouts, cooked in water with a some sugar and then quickly sauteed in butter...yum :-)

  13. Bloodyhell, maybe I'll home school?

  14. Great post! well, I try to grow some veggies, and relentlessly explain that red berries growing on trees and bushes are not "peas" as toddler maintains because peas are green and grow in pods. With the result that toddler now calls peas "berries".


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