Thursday, 26 November 2009

Jamie Oliver would wet himself with excitement

There are very many differences between life at home in the UK and here in New Zealand. One of the first I noticed when we moved here was the availability in the supermarket or greengrocer's of various vegetables and fruit at any given time of the year. We arrived not quite fresh as daisies on 1st November 2007 in the beautiful Bay of Plenty. November in New Zealand is probably akin to May or June in the UK . It is wonderfully clement , a bit breezy and summer feels like it's about to leap out at you. A perfect time to arrive in a country when you are distraught about leaving your beloved United Kingdom.

Wandering round the supermarket I noticed that most of the vegetables and fruit are grown in New Zealand. I was impressed and was pleased to be able to 'buy local produce' as Jamie and his mates had been urging us to do for the last couple of years. Even more exciting were the swathes of strawberries, avocados and asparagus which all seemed pretty cheap. I smugly congratulated myself on living in a country where these special treats were so readily available.

For the first few months our food bill was pretty high until I realised that produce is priced according to its seasonal availability. I immediately stopped paying $3 for a single leek and waited til autumn to enjoy them. A bag of ten avocados can be bought for about $5 in December but come May, each one costs around $2.50. In the UK, a basket of goods in a supermarket would cost the same in May as it would in December. I have quite a bit of horticultural education to get under my belt.

For about 3 weeks a year in winter every feijoa tree in the land blankets the ground with masses and masses of small, oval, green nuggets. They suddenly appear in the supermarket and are pretty expensive (apparently their delicate skin is easy to bruise and therefore make it tricky to transport). I have never seen anyone buy any though as every third house has a feijoa tree in their garden and the owners happily give the fallen fruit away to absolutely anyone. Before living here I had neither tasted nor heard of the fruit. I'm not competely convinced - it's a bit like eating a rather filling bouquet of flowers. But I absolutely love the mania that goes with them. You can't leave someone's house without having a jar of feijoa pickle or muffins stuffed in your bag and suddenly 'Feijoa and parma ham' seems like an excellent idea for a starter.

It certainly seems natural to take fruit directly from a tree rather than wait for it to be waxed, scrubbed, packed in crates and shipped to a supermarket where you have to hand over cash for the stuff. Clearly that's what my sister in law thinks too as I have, with my own eyes, witnessed her helping herself to a few juicy lemons from the branches of a heavily laden tree a few doors down from her house. Luckily New Zealanders are a generous bunch so I doubt she'll be locked up for it.

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