Where have all the tomatoes gone?
Great Britain is currently undergoing a salad shortage, affecting tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers as result of poor supplies from oversea growers and increased energy prices for UK farmers. We breakdown the issue and suggest alternatives to your favourite salad items.
If you have strolled down the vegetable aisle of your local supermarket recently you will be frustratingly familiar with the sight of empty shelves. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and certain fruits have all been affected by the supply shortages, which is why you may have seen some supermarkets such as Tesco, Aldi, Morrisons and Asda imposing customer purchase limits on some fruits and vegetables.
But what is the reason behind these shortages and how long will they last?
According to the government, the shortages are expected to last for several weeks and have been predominantly caused by poor weather in Morocco and Spain, which are two of the UK’s biggest suppliers over the winter months.
Although the UK is largely self-sufficient in growing and supplying salad produce in the summer, it’s said that Britain imports 95% of its tomatoes and 90% of lettuce from December to March, according to British Retail Consortium (BRC) data.
Meanwhile, in the UK growers have delayed planting crops due to high energy costs. British farmers are struggling to power their greenhouses which are used to grow specific crops during the colder months. And until the UK growing season starts and we find alternative suppliers, we are likely to experience these shortages for many weeks to come. Not only that, but supplies of cabbages, cauliflower, parsnips and leeks are all forecast to potentially run short due to crop failures.
So what fruit and vegetable alternatives can we eat instead?
Though these fruits and vegetables may be hard to come by, don’t let shortages put you off eating your five-a-day. The current shortages are only affecting fresh produce so canned, frozen, and dried products are not yet impacted. They also have a longer shelf life and boast plenty of nutritional values. So, if your usual fruit or vegetable is temporarily unavailable, now might be the time to try something new.
In springtime (March–May), we see warmer weather and with that comes a bountiful supply of hearty green vegetables and herbs. Finely chopped spring greens and shredded brussels sprouts can bulk out salads in replacement of missing salad leaves. Or, try massaging curly kale using your hands with olive oil for two-three minutes to soften the leaves and combat the crunchy, bitter taste of raw kale. These dark, leafy green alternatives are not only high in calcium but typically contain higher traces of vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene compared to romaine or iceberg lettuce.
While cucumbers may be absent from supermarkets, you can still get that cooling, crisp bite with alternative vegetables such as celery or fennel, both of which have high water content and a similar firm texture. We suggest using a mandolin when chopping the fennel for perfectly shaped slices to add into your salad.
Where a recipe calls for fresh tomatoes, here is where you can experiment with different citrus fruits. Orange and grapefruits hold the same fleshy texture as tomatoes and the acidity in citrus fruit can mimic the taste of the tomato. You could always add a squirt of honey to balance the citric acid with sweetness, too. Watermelon also makes a great addition to salads if you fancied something closer to a sweeter cherry tomato, for instance.
And fear not, because thankfully your everyday tomato staples such as passata, purée, canned chopped tomatoes and ketchup are still available. So, keep calm and carry ‘tom’ for now.