I’ve spent a lot of time on farms.
I didn’t grow up on one but throughout my late teens, twenties and now into my thirties, I’ve been drawn time and time again to work on them, visit them, and photograph them.
There was an orange grove in Sicily, a ‘free range egg’ chicken farm in Wales, a living community farm north of Seville, a goats farm with a collection of bee hives just north of Nürnberg, and a papaya farm in Laos, to name but a few.
If I close my eyes I can still remember eating the juiciest orange just freshly picked under the Sicilian winter sun, or spreading the creamiest of goats cheese and the most incredible vanilla honey on homemade bread for breakfast on a cool summer morning, and the fresh, bitter, peppery, and lemony greens we were blessed with every lunchtime in the early spring in Wales. I’d also never had a green papaya salad like the one I shared amongst friendly people in a charming wooden hut at a papaya farm in Laos, nor had I ever tasted a papaya that was so ripe, so sweet and which had the most beautiful vibrant orange colour!
I also remember all too well the horrors of commercial animal farming, with “free range” meaning 20 000 chickens per shed, living under horrific conditions, with their eggs being sold in boxes donning pretty pictures of green pastures and idyllic landscapes. This experience opened my eyes to how misleading packaging can be, and since then I have always taken great care in where I buy my animal products.
I love eating locally and in-season.
In Freiburg, when I see the first radishes, cucumbers, and courgettes arrive on the market, my entire face lights up. In mid-summer I’m so excited when I notice the first local watermelons — I literally cannot eat them quick enough! All those berries, those wonderful green beans, the enormous aubergines… it’s overwhelming!
When autumn comes upon us I equally love the slightly unusual Vulkan Spargel, with its green leaves and white asparagus-like fingers. It is a bitter vegetable, but tastes so lovely in a risotto with caramelised pears and walnuts. All the different varieties of pumpkins from the oh-so-cute sweet dumpling, that’s just perfect to be baked whole and then filled with lentils and tomatoes, to the totally scrummy and versatile butternut squash.
In winter, I savour roughly chopped kale with its dark green tones and curling edges tossed in a pan with heaps of garlic, and a good drizzle of oyster sauce, served with steamed rice and baked local sweet potatoes. What a treat!
And when spring comes round again I’m thrilled to get my hands on beautiful bunches of fresh herbs, from lovage to dill to tarragon. Each season brings its own delights, its own explosions on my senses.
I practice what I preach.
At home I only eat fruit and vegetables that are grown in Germany when they are in season. Meaning, I don’t eat tomatoes from Holland, apricots from Italy, or watermelons or aubergines from Spain. I have eaten locally for so many years that it now comes quite naturally. Simply put, local fruits and vegetables taste the best to me. Furthermore, eating what is regionally available makes me feel much more in tune with the ever-changing seasons and surrounding nature. I also like to buy organic, but I wouldn’t choose organic over local (for example, organic apples from New Zealand over non-organic apples from 20 kms away). For several years now I’ve also cooked completely seasonally as a professional: both in El Haso and for Kraut und Rueben Catering.
The biggest challenge is in February and March when the variety of vegetables is very limited, but that’s just the type of challenge I love and it’s also when I feel my most creative! The possibilities are, as always with food, just endless. And just when you think there is nothing more you can do with potatoes, beetroots and cabbage, those rosy pink radishes turn up on the market and you know that it’s all about to change again.
This is what is important to me.
This was Kraut und Rueben Catering.
This is Hannah Huddy.