Five ways to improve your food

Eating is just one of those things that we all do but we mostly don’t think about. But since living with my university friends, the majority of our conversations have been about the ever-interesting topic of food. And having been unemployed for several months I can honestly say that my days now revolve around my meals. My housemate, Ella, herself admits that when she isn’t eating, she’s almost always thinking about when she can next do so. That’s just the kind of people we are.

That’s all very well, you say, but why should we try to improve the way we consume? Surely it is just a natural process and beyond different food types or eateries there isn’t much variation? Actually, it has been shown that engaging with your food, understanding where it comes from and how it has been made to look like the appetising stuff on yer plate can really contribute to life satisfaction.

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  1. Shop at independent retailers

In this age of mass-produced, homogenised food, stumbling upon an independent shop can be a rare breath of fresh air. Discreet new retailers, such as Utop-ish on Smithdown Road, L18, offer ethically sourced produce from workers’ collectives, vegan delights such as pesto tofu and bizarrely coloured vegetables like purple carrots. The business, which hasn’t advertised through any official channels, is run by some of the friendliest people you will ever meet and has gone from strength to strength. Organising local bring and share potluck events bimonthly and always ready for a chat, this shop is helping to create the sense of community lacking from this area. With its ethical alternative to the supermarket conglomerates that dominate and control the food market, it also demonstrates that veganism isn’t simply a dietary choice, but a world view.

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2. Go for a cheeky forage

Foraging is a superb way to get in touch with nature and take tips from squirrels. It is often most rewarding in late summer when the hedgerows are bursting with blackberries, elderberries and rosehips just calling out to be picked. However there are a few dedicated groups who continue foraging all year round. This can yield delights such as dandelions, hazelnuts, sweet chestnuts, sloes, and various mushrooms.

This encourages self-sustainability and a closeness to nature that can easily be lost in cities. It is also a way to find completely free food and fruit invariably tastes better picked straight from a plant!

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Check out these websites for tips.

http://www.countrylife.co.uk/food-drink/british-food/how-to-forage-in-autumnwinter

http://foraginguk.proboards.com/

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3. Cook up something delicious with your foraged goods

One of the best aspects of foraging is the cooking you get to do afterwards. Summer fruits which can be found in hedgerows at the edge of fields and even along the side of many roads are fab for making jams and jellies. Although there are many methods, this is probably the simplest and can be used for high pectin fruits such as damsons and blackberries.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/how_to_make_jam_75331

Nuts can be roasted, sloes can be made into gin and nettles into beer. For other recipes and tips, check out this site.

http://fergustheforager.co.uk/recipes-articles/

4. Create your own garden

Living in a student house with a cracked concrete yard and a square metre of weedy clay with no direct sunlight could be seen as a significant obstacle. But I’ve accepted the challenge and, along with my housemate, we established a collection of potatoes, mint, chives, lettuce and kale.

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We have also set up a compost bin which is a simple way of recycling our waste and putting it to good use.

Gardening provides me with the opportunity to get outdoors, the satisfaction of seeing things grow and the pleasure of eating a meal mainly grown myself!

IMG_1513 I grew potatoes!

5. Set up your own community garden

Community gardens are a splendid way to improve the food you consume. They can be used to grow all kinds of edible delights from herbs to fruit and veg. The produce is usually fresh, organic and packed full of vitamins. As well as the food itself, community gardens encourage wildlife which can be a joy and education for local children and offer therapeutic gardening for adults. Furthermore, community gardens primarily do what it says on the tin: foster a sense of community. They provide green oases in the heart of urban areas to bring diverse groups together with a common aim. They can be a great way to meet new people and to learn about food.

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Rotunda Community Garden was created partly by the Liverpool probation Service and allows young offenders to re-adjust and gain new skills. In a working class area in which there is little work, the skills and experience that these gardens offer to residents can be a huge help.  The garden, similarly to that built on Smithdown Road, L8, was built to improve a derelict site and foster local pride.

The University of Liverpool Rooftop Garden is also an area for students to engage with their environment and grow their own grub. This encourages sustainability and consideration for one’s environment. The garden volunteers are also linked to the FoodCycle society which helps to distribute food to support the most vulnerable in the city.

The increased awareness of issues such as climate change and homelessness as well as rehabilitation and horticultural skills are all benefits of setting up your own community garden.

http://aerialediblegardening.wordpress.com/2012/09/23/urban-agriculture-part-nine-liverpool/

http://www.baytvliverpool.com/vod/?vid=HBV5214b5acc40a9

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Overall, changing the way I look at food has been a rewarding experience. I can live more independently, sustainably, healthily and ethically. These five ideas can provide an alternative to supermarket conglomerates, a different way to view urban areas and a point of community. Finally they can be cheap and accessible, preventing ethical eating and gardening from remaining an exclusively a middle-class pursuit.

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