Lee Clarke: How the weather is changing the way we all eat and cook

How the weather affects crops
How the weather affects crops

You may have caught on the news this week an interesting, but not unique story during the headlines about the upcoming election and the latest sports scores. The cost of avocados has hit a record high due to reduced harvests in the three biggest exporters of the popular fruit – Mexico, Peru and California.

The shortage has been caused in part by a drought in California which has meant suppliers have not been able to meet the high demand caused by the fruit’s superstar status amongst lifestyle magazines, bloggers and social media celebrities.

However the avocado is not alone this year, we’ve seen shortages amongst a number of fruits and vegetables. Earlier this year broccoli, lettuce, salads and courgettes all faced similar shortages due to what was called the ‘perfect storm’ of poor growing conditions that hit the likes of Italy, Spain and France.

Wine too has been hit by similar crises in recent years; in 2016 South Africa had its smallest grape harvest for half a decade. This year Bordeaux vineyards have been hit by what many fear is the worst frost in a quarter of a century.

Weather has always affected the way we eat, that’s why we define our seasons, and it’s why we have harvest seasons at certain times for different crops. We are so used to being able to get our food at a moment’s notice; it will prove an interesting challenge to see how we tackle an ever-changing climate when it comes to mass-production of food.

Interestingly, amongst chefs there is already a movement acknowledging and reacting to this change with the increased use of fermentation and preservation techniques. Here at Prévost we used fermented garlic in our latest menu, and are perfecting fermented butter for our upcoming menu.

This could point to a change in the popular methods of cooking, from the more experimental and technological, to the more authentic, classic and traditional techniques that at times have been in danger of being lost entirely. The food world is at an interesting crossroads and where it will go, only time (and perhaps the weather!) will tell.

Lee Clarke is head chef at Prevost, in Priestgate, Peterborough www.prevostpeterborough.co.uk @foodleeclarke