Food and Behaviour Research

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2 June 2014 - The Scotsman - Brits ‘clueless’ about which vegetables in season

by Lyndsay Buckland

Britons admit they are “pretty clueless” about when different foods are in season, with many unaware that they can buy British strawberries in summer and homegrown Brussels sprouts in December, a survey suggests.


This survey reveals a shocking (if not surprising) degree of ignorance among British adults about which fruits and vegetables are grown in the UK - and their seasonality.

The costs of this ignorance are profound, not only in terms of their economic and environmental effects, but in their effects on health - both physical and mental. Fresh, locally grown vegetable and fruits are often more nutritious than imported produce, and increasing evidence shows that consuming more of these foods would benefit both physical and mental health.

Younger adults in this survey also appeared to know less than older adults. This is hardly surprising given the decline in school education on food and cookery that took place from the 1970s onwards - accompanied by a massive rise in the marketing and advertising of highly processed foods and drinks.

Fortunately, good work is now going on in many schools to provide children with the information they need to appreciate what real food is, where it comes from, and how to prepare it - and we heard some inspiring examples at our FAB Research seminar in the Highlands last week.  

However, as this survey shows, the same information still needs to reach many adults - and the sooner it does so, the more likely we are to reverse the rising rates of not only obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer, but also ADHD, depression and dementia - all of which also show clear links to diet.

With shoppers being increasingly encouraged to buy locally both to support businesses and help the environment, research has found many are still are unaware which fruit and vegetables they can get from closer to home at different times of the year.

Three-quarters of adults surveyed (75 per cent) agreed that “on the whole… Britons are pretty clueless when it comes to knowing what vegetables and fruits are in season and when”.

The poll for Leaf (Linking ­Environment and Farming) also found that almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of people did not know British farmers grow blueberries, 62 per cent did not know they grow sweetcorn and 29 per cent had no idea cauliflower was grown locally.

Almost a fifth – 19 per cent – did not know apples were grown in Britain.

Despite the strawberry’s strong association with Wimbledon, fewer than six in ten adults (59 per cent) knew they could buy British strawberries in the summer.

Some 5,000 hectares of British strawberries are grown commercially each year, yet one in five of those questioned did not realise that local farmers grew them at all.

Just one in three people knew when they could buy British ­asparagus – usually between April and June – with one in ten (11 per cent) thinking they could buy it all year round.

Almost half of consumers (46 per cent) were unaware that they can buy British Brussels sprouts in December, and half (52 per cent) did not know they could buy homegrown kale.

The poll of 2,000 people ­revealed that those born in the 1990s were 1.5 times less likely to know British farmers grew strawberries than those born in the 1950s, 2.5 times less likely to know they could buy British Brussels sprouts in December and three times less likely to know when to buy British ­asparagus.

Of those born in the 1990s, 16 per cent thought oranges were grown commercially in Britain.