in search of an environmentally acceptable tomato

The strawberries are ripening well and this week will see the addition of celery, new potatoes and cucumber to the lengthening list of our own produce in the boxes, but even with the recent sunshine our first unheated tomatoes are still green and two weeks from harvest. The only way to get local tomatoes earlier is by using heat. Our research has led us to the conclusion that heated glass is almost as crazy as airfreight and, although we have some very good growers that we like working with, sanity calls for a change. The ideal would be to convince you to forgo tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and aubergines for eight months of the year from November to June but my ad-hoc survey of the fridges of even the most eco-conscious of my friends invariably reveals a winter weakness.

Trucking a kilo of peppers from Spain causes about 300grams of CO2 emissions. Growing them out of season in heated glass in Northern Europe results in about 15 times as much at 4.5 kg CO2 per kilo of fruit. The sum is only marginally better for tomatoes; see our dedicated website www.riverfordenvironment.co.uk/hothouse.aspx for more details. Which is why I am typing this in the back of a Spaniard