We think of camping as a very green activity – getting back to the land and being close to nature. Certainly it can seem that way, at least until we take into account the things we carry with us, all the packaged and free-dried food, the tins of this and that for our meals, as well as the equipment on which to cook it – not to mention the petrol used in driving to the campsite itself.
That’s being prepared, but in many cases, not all of it is necessary. Of course you’ll need the cooking and eating utensils, but when it comes to food, for many things you can buy food that’s produced locally and eat much better, as well as being green and supporting local business. How’s that for helping the fight against climate change?
What Can You Buy?
What you can buy depends on where you are and the time of year. We’re used to being able to find all manner of produce and vegetables year-round in the supermarket, but really if you’re looking for local produce, it’s seasonal. Late June and July, for instance, is the perfect time for British strawberries and raspberries; you can also enjoy peas and potatoes straight out of the earth in the late summer and early autumn. From the start of August until late September there are always plenty of blackberries to be plucked from the hedgerows, you can make a feast of them for nothing.
Most campsites are close enough to villages so that you can walk to a shop, which will often have local produce, and frequently local meat (if you’re lucky, maybe even a local dairy). It’s a win-win situation: you don’t have to bring as much to the campsite, you get food that’s fresh, with a low carbon footprint, and the farmer makes money.
Quite often farmers will rent out space for campers in their fields, and since most farms have chickens, you’ll be able to buy very fresh eggs for your breakfast – or even to eat as dinner. There might also be vegetables and fruit for sale, depending on the season and what’s grown on the farm.
Does Local Food Taste Better?
Most people are used to food that’s travelled a long way to reach the supermarket shelves. With anything fresh, the longer the time between picking and eating, the more the flavours break down. There’s nothing to compare with truly fresh food, especially with, say, berries, or an ear of corn.
It’s even true with meat, as anyone who regularly buys at a farm shop will tell you. What you’ll find in the countryside, certainly if you look a little, is food that hasn’t been mass-produced, and without the chemical additives that are so much a part of things these days.
In many ways, using local food adds to the camping experience. It makes you feel closer to the community, and to the countryside itself, by dealing with local retailers and growers. It can also be life-changing, in a small way, possibly altering the way you eat forever; once you’ve really tasted fresh, it can be hard to go back.
But simply the advantage of having to carry less food with you can be all you’ll need, too. If you’re spending two or three days at a campsite, talk to the owner and find out where to buy local foods. Buy what you need, from a village shop or from the farm, and everyone will be happier. It’s one simple way to make camping into a much greener pastime.