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.
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.
Leaf’s Annabel Shackleton said: “Alarmingly there appears to be a decline in knowledge about what our farmers grow and when to buy homegrown produce. A number of initiatives are being run in schools to help improve children’s knowledge but it seems adults could do with some lessons too.
“One in ten people questioned admitted to having been left embarrassed by asking for something that wasn’t in season, but much greater numbers than that have a problem understanding seasonality.
“The agricultural industry is worth billions to the British economy, so it is important that we know what homegrown produce to look out for when shopping.”
Annie Anderson, professor of public health nutrition at Dundee University, said as well as being encouraged to eat more fruit and vegetables, people should be urged to think about the environmental impact of the food they eat.
She said: “In winter in Scotland we have lots of root vegetables available. That would be preferable to eating hot-house produced vegetables grown in Europe or shipped in from South America.”
Prof Anderson said fruit and vegetable consumption was affected by price so if produce was grown locally and sold for less that would help increase intake.