Scallops: it’s worth navigating choppy ethical waters to serve one of the marine world’s greatest delicacies

Listen carefully and you’ll hear the noise of hundreds of angry fisherman sharpening their hooks, or more accurately their dredging gears, as their industry endures yet another round of bad publicity. Most of their ire will be directed at high profile celebrity chef and restaurateur Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, who last month launched a full scale attack on the majority of the scallop industry.

Channel 4’s Save Our Seas asserted that dredging boats dragging gears across the seabed to dislodge scallops and other marine life lacks discrimination and is causing irreparable damage to the marine ecosystem. Fearnley Whittingstall claims the only truly sustainable option is hand dived scallops, which are far more expensive and represent a comparatively tiny amount of total production. Unsurprisingly, the industry largely disputes this claim, arguing that dredging can be sustainable in areas where the sea floor is constantly being ploughed up by natural tides.

Mixed sustainability messages

But it’s not just the fishermen that are railing against TV’s take on the issue. Seafood expert and restaurateur Mitch Tonks is dismayed at the way dredging has been portrayed. “I get my scallops from Brixham Market; they are dredge caught by the local fleet. When you see Hugh diving on a rocky reef, that’s not quite the full picture: the majority of scallops are harvested from sandy bottoms. It’s heavy impact fishing, but it’s done in a contained area. Besides, dredging is the only way to offer scallops on a meaningful scale.” There are conflicting messages from the big fishing organisations too. The Marine Conservation Society says that nothing but hand harvested will do, but the Marine Stewardship Council accredits a number of dredged scallop fisheries, further muddying the waters for chefs. (more…)

There are more reasons than ever to “eat your greens”

Iron, vitamin A, antioxidants the average serve of green vegetables contains an impressive number of goodies. But while they all share the same colour partly due to their chlorophyll content each one brings a slightly different health benefit to the table. So, whether it’s for easing a hangover or preventing cancer, there’s a green vegie that fits the bill.

Watercress a daily dose of watercress can significantly reduce DNA damage to blood cells, something that’s believed to be an important trigger in the development of cancer. Irish researchers found consuming watercress regularly is linked to an overall reduced risk of cancer at various sites in the body. Choose bunches with fresh looking leaves and healthy, robust stems.

Broccoli Researchers have discovered another reason broccoli is so good for you by stimulating the release of antioxidant enzymes, the cruciferous vegetable helps protect against the respiratory inflammation that leads to asthma and allergic rhinitis (think runny nose and watery eyes). A half cup serve of cooked broccoli also provides near to 60 per cent of your daily vitamin C requirements. (more…)

When in season fresh sweet corn

A salad bar staple it may be, but when in season fresh sweet corn can add a wow factor to summer menus
With canned sweetcorn a mainstay of salad bars, jacket potato toppings and questionable vegetarian pizza options, it is perhaps understandable that its fresh counterpart is neglected by ‘proper’ chefs. Yet when cooked very fresh sweetcorn must be used promptly as the sugars start turning into less tasty starch as soon as it is harvested it can be a revelation.

Sweetcorn is essentially a variety of maize with a high sugar content, but unlike most other corn varieties it’s picked when immature (the ‘milk stage’) and consumed as a vegetable rather than a grain. Native American tribes were the first to cultivate the plant and most believe Christopher Columbus brought it back to the old world, along with tomatoes, potatoes and chilli plants.

A true corn star

As well as being a canned vegetable stalwart, sweetcorn is now a hugely important food processing ingredient. Corn syrup is the US go to and somewhat controversial sweetening and thickening agent, and a very close relative of sweetcorn provides popcorn. Polenta and corn flour are processed from other types of maize. (more…)