Variations on the Theme of Vegetables

When at school I had an English teacher who encouraged us to practice writing skills through a series of exercises that required us to write a piece that successfully connected two different events or ideas. I found those exercises very useful and I sometimes try the same thing when I’m stuck for something to write about on this blog. So here’s a hamfisted attempt to shoehorn two things that happened this week into one blog post.

One of the first things I did when I moved back to Cardiff in the summer was to reinstate weekly deliveries of fresh organically-gown vegetables direct from a farm via a company called Riverford. I blogged about the the reasons for doing this some years ago, including the following:

I have a standing order for a small box of vegetables every week costing about £10. The composition varies from week to week and with the time of year. The company does email and post on its website the contents of the following week’s boxes, but I generally don’t look at it. When the box arrives, it’s usually a mixture of staples (potatoes, carrots, onions, etc) plus things that are not so familiar, and often things that I’ve often never cooked before.  If it hadn’t been for the veggie box, I would probably never have found out about how to cook chard, romanesco, jerusalem artichokes and celeriac. I look forward to these surprises. Not knowing exactly what’s coming forces me to cook new things, and if I don’t know how to cook them there’s always google.

Here’s an example here from this week’s box:


This extraordinary fractal object is Romanesco. It’s obviously related to the cauliflower, but has a much firmer texture and has a distinctive “nutty” flavour. I am looking forward to cooking and eating this at the weekend!

Another reason for resuming the veggie box service (still only £10, by the way) is that I’ve had medical advice to increase my consumption of fresh vegetables, especially those rich in Vitamin K (which includes the various Brassica that includes Romanesco, but also cabbages, broccoli, kale, spinach, chard and a host of other things that I really enjoy eating anyway.

This brings me to another topic that has been on my mind this week. A chance conversation with a friend who happens to be a GP revealed that she’s seen a worrying upturn in the number of (male) university students presenting with symptoms of scurvy, an extremely unpleasant and potentially life-threatening condition caused by a deficiency of Vitamin C. University students are not famed for their healthy eating habits, and the prevalence of fast-food outlets combined with inadequate knowledge of even basic cooking techniques among young men is probably responsible for this regrettable phenomenon. The human body is not able to make its own Vitamin C so we have to make sure we eat enough food containing it. However, the recommended daily intake is actually rather small and is easily met by a modest intake of fruit and vegetables. Sailors on a diet of hard tack and salt pork had an excuse for developing scurvy, but there’s no reason at all for anyone – even students – to suffer the same fate by living on crisps and kebabs.

Anyway, if you work in a university I hope you’ll consider passing this advice onto your students. Indeed if you’re at a proper university that still does small-group teaching in tutorials, why not offer your students some fresh fruit or orange juice? Just a thought.

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