February can be a challenging time for buying local produce; however a wide range of fruit and vegetables are harvested across Worcestershire in the winter months. Worcestershire farmers grow crops and rear animals on more than 110,000 hectares - an area ten times larger than the city of Worcester. If you're planning on staying in this Valentine's Day, it's the perfect time to prepare a home-cooked, home-grown meal.
Cllr Tony Miller, Worcestershire County Council cabinet member with responsibility for Environment said: "Choosing local seasonal produce is a great way to support the local community and the British farming industry. Worcestershire is fortunate to have a range of businesses which grow and sell seasonal produce on a large and small scale, so local produce can be bought in supermarkets, farm shops, or even delivered to your door via a veg-box scheme. If you're cooking a meal at home this Valentine's Day, make it a meal to remember buy choosing home-grown produce, and don’t forget the candles to make that special day special."
In February apples, rhubarb and pears are all available alongside parsnips, turnips, purple sprouting broccoli and spring greens.
Some British crops - like carrots, cauliflowers, potatoes and frozen British peas - are also available to eat all year round because of longer growing seasons and good storage conditions.
There are more than 4,400 farm businesses and smallholdings in the county, varying in size from just five hectares, which is the equivalent of around eight full sized football pitches, to more than 100 hectares. The land they grow crops and rear stock on could fit the Sixways Stadium on more than 7,000 times, with room to spare.
George Bostock from Worcestershire NFU said: "Worcestershire is a diverse and innovative farming county and there are some great tasting, seasonal, ingredients out there just waiting for people to discover. County farmers produce food and drink to rigorous standards and their dairy products, seasonal vegetables and fruit, melt in the mouth beef, pork and poultry, herbs, oils and more exotic ingredients will elevate any meal, any day of the week.
“Farmers are also quite rightly proud of their Worcestershire produced breakfast juices, wine, beer, perry and cider and we’re sure a glass or two will be raised to celebrate Valentine’s. We thank people for backing farmers and growers, we’d urge them to continue their support buy buying local and seasonal when they can.
“The region is at the country’s heart and our farmers grow and rear food and with love and care – we are sure that home-grown Worcestershire produce will make Valentine’s extra special.”
The UK food and farming sector is worth £109 billion to our economy and represents around 3.8 million jobs.
Evesham Vale Growers, based in Blackminster near Evesham, farms over 2,500 acres and has grown to be one of the largest farming businesses in the Midlands. The company is a family business which takes a sustainable approach to food production by utilising waste and reducing water usage. Customers include Sainsbury's, Waitrose, Morrisons, Aldi, Asda, the Co-operative and Walkers crisps. The business is one of the largest tomato businesses in the UK.
David Shepherd from Evesham Vale Growers said: “We are now able to grow tomatoes in Worcestershire through the winter months under heated glass with lights, replicating a sunny day in June, even when it’s freezing outside. Fresher, tastier, beautiful British tomatoes available to enjoy every day of the year.”
Worcestershire County Council supports the Love Food, Hate Waste campaign which raises awareness of the need to reduce food waste. To find out more about the campaign, including tips to reduce food waste and save money, visit www.lovefoodhatewaste.com. The website contains recipes for using up food, which could serve as inspiration for a Valentine's meal in.