British readers will notice that the baby vegetables they are able to buy at the moment are, for babies, somewhat husky. This is because EU legislation, which was only repealed last week and which will remain in force until July 2009, sets strict rules for the dimensions of vegetables – carrots may not be sold, even as baby carrots, if they weigh under 8g.
Legislation on the weight, symmetry, roundness, straightness, evenness and colour of vegetables in the EU has, in my experience, been roundly ignored by market sellers in France, Italy and Spain, while it’s prosecuted with zeal by UK council officials. (Meanwhile, amazingly, it was the French, Italians and Spanish who were in particular opposition to any change in legislation – I am at a total loss to understand how it comes to be the rigid old British and the Germans who are calling the situation as it is untenable.) It’s good to know that these protectionist rules, which used to result in the waste of around 20% of all farm produce, are being dumped as a result of the EU-wide rise in food costs, and I look forward to the appearance of spurred and bendy cucumbers in my local supermarket. Meanwhile, I wish they’d extend the repeal of these rules to all vegetables – even once next year’s changes come into force, it will still be illegal to sell imperfect apples and pears (note that a lot of old English varieties are rusty and spotty, and as such impossible to sell legally) unless you slap a label on them saying “product intended for processing”. Citrus fruit, kiwi fruit, lettuces, peaches and nectarines, pears, strawberries, sweet peppers, table grapes and tomatoes will also remain covered by the old legislation. I long for a funny-shaped tomato, or one of those lovely ripply peppers. The law in this area is a mess, protecting the interests of farmers while raising prices, putting financial pressure on householders and excluding us from choice and flavour. Sometimes I feel my best option might be to turn the back garden into an allotment.
Anyway. I seem to have gone off on a tangent. These glazed carrots and radishes are delicious, extremely easy to make, and not as bad for you as you might imagine. They’re a regular fixture on our table at Christmas, but they’re fantastic at any time of year. I have faked true baby Chantenay carrots here with the judicious trimming of pubescent-but-legal, 8-gram Chantenays. Until next year, you’ll have to do the same. Or emigrate.To serve two, you’ll need:
12 baby carrots
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 heaped tablespoon grainy Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon salt
Top and tail the radishes. Top and tail the carrots and trim them to be a similar size to the radishes. Melt the butter with the water, maple syrup, salt and mustard in a small saucepan, and bring the mixture to a gentle simmer. Cook the carrots in the mixture over a low heat, stirring, for about eight minutes, then add the radishes and cook for a further two minutes. Serve immediately, with some of the glaze drizzled over the top.