Irish chef Gavan Murphy, now living in Los Angeles, says he is seeing the results of climate change at his local farmer’s market. He has a strong advocate for eating seasonal organic produce for the health and economic benefits. But it may well be we will have no other choices.
“Last summer for example there was a drought all last summer,” says Murphy aka The Healthy Irishman and feature chef on Spike TV’s Bar Rescue. “So you can see the farmers are suffering because they can’t produce the food that would be known as Californian, like sweet corn, avocados, strawberries, melons, lettuce. It can be very difficult to get . . . the organic farmers in particular are suffering because they are not putting pesticides on their food. So if they’re not getting the water and it’s too hot they are not getting their produce out there to sell it.”
Murphy, who grew up in Ireland and learned his Eat Seasonal philosophy at Ballymaloe in Cork, is one of three celebrity chefs cooking at the 2015 Toronto Festival of Beer during the Beerlicious Grilling Experience. He will be joining Tim McCarthy and Dublin Pop Up for a look at Irish food and beer. It won’t be the usual fare he says but there will be the staples.
“The crux of Irish food is still meat and potatoes,” he says, “but it will be more refined than just that. Pub grub was once just a hearty stew or soup, coming back to our heritage. . . people came along expecting the weather not to be the best and wanting that warm comforting food in a bar. But now people expect it to be more. They expect it to have more intricate ingredients, more interesting cooking styles, which is great for everyone in Ireland. We are not just known as meat and potato drinkers, people are coming for a bit more sophistication and we are delivering that.”
It was the not-the-best weather that had Murphy seeking sunnier climes and the City of Angels. is where he now lives, works and teaches. He has been there for over a decade. What began as a food blog grew into a business sharing healthy recipes based on seasonally available organic ingredients. While the negative effects of climate change on cold weather crops are apparent hotter weather also means greater access to hot weather crops. It’s not all doom and gloom for the bloom however.
“Having watermelon in the middle of December is not something you should be able to get. But if you get 75 degree days then you are going to be able to get it,” says Murphy, “We are not talking two seasons necessarily but maybe one long summer into Spring back into summer. So we can get great fruits and vegetables all year round. That’s just because we live down here on the south west. It definitely affects my cooking style but I have a lot more variety because I can get a lot more product year round instead of just having winter vegetables and summer vegetables.”
Murphy, in all his teachings, stresses the health benefits of cooking in tandem with the season. Sourcing food locally, organically, overall is the most beneficial diet, Even if you live in an area with limited variety he says.“Its just one of those things where in the winter you will be having zucchinis and squash and peppers and by the winter is over, the roots vegetables, turnips, parsnips, you’re just sick to death of looking at them because you’ve been eating them for six months. But these are the vegetables that are supporting the farmers, the vegetables that are naturally growing at that time of the year so you will get the best nutritional value out of them because this is when they are supposed to grow.”
The road to healthy living begins with in-season produce whatever the season and that road starts with knowing your farmers he says.
“The key way to understand and know what’s in season is to go to the Farmer’s Markets. Whatever the farmers are selling on a particular day that’s what’s in season. Go to the market, see what’s on the stands, that’s what you should be focusing your diet on,” says Murphy and he should know. He is known as the Healthy Irishman for a reason.