Grow your Own Articles
In this section I hope to share my many years of experience of growing our own fruit and vegetables, through the use of examples, anecdotes, hints and tips, I hope to demonstrate that growing your own can not only be healthier and cheaper, but also it can be fun. I say healthier because, when you grow your own you know what goes into it and/or on it; this is of course a very topical issue at this time and I am afraid that like meat, our vegetable food chain, at times has become too long. Beans from Africa, Carrots from France, Potatoes from Egypt, Apples from New Zealand, all of which look great on the Supermarket shelf, but do they taste good or are they just an unnecessary hype of the commercial sales pitch. We can grow all of these products in this country if only we would return to seasonal eating. A lot of top chefs are now serving seasonal British food in their restaurants, which is great for the palate, great for Britain, and great for the carbon footprint.
We all know about flying food from all over the world, most of us understand about under ripe Bananas being shipped in refrigerated boats (not much we can do about that unfortunately), however, Apples from the other side of the world, do we need to? Let's take a simple vegetable such as the Carrot. Your average supermarket carrot is picked anywhere in Europe, washed, packed, refrigerated and shipped to the store, by the time it hits the shelf it's at best, 36 to 48 hours old. It stays on the shelf for however long it takes for you to buy it, you take it home, it sits in your fridge for up to two or three weeks. When you grow your own, you pick what you want and eat it within 24 hours, how good is that, loads of vitamins and minerals and no wastage, plus less carbon footprint. Your average home grown carrot, once picked starts to go wrinkly after four days in the fridge, so what's that about? As I said, you know what goes into what you grow yourself; it must be better all the bugs love them! It's also healthy because to grow your own you need to garden and exercise in some way shape or form.
In the introduction to this section I said I hoped to show that it can be cheaper. Gardening can be cheaper in many ways. If you take 10 small potatoes and plant them in the ground, tend them well and harvest them correctly, you should get at least a sack of potatoes from that original investment. When you grow your own produce, there is very little wastage, as I said above, you pick what you need and eat it fresh, other produce you can store quite easily; I can't believe the price of a clove of garlic when for the same price you can grow 10 or 15 of them. Also when there is an abundance of food you can freeze it. What you don't eat – you can use as compost.
One example I keep using is that of roast potatoes, mashed potatoes and 'Bubble and Squeak'. I can't believe people actually buy these products ready made? Some enterprising companies are making money selling these things to people when they can be made in advance by anyone, frozen and used as required and here's how:
It can be as simple as, when you make roast potatoes do extra and freeze them, keep adding to the bag in the freezer until you have enough for a serving, same with your mash and left over vegetables add to them until you have enough for 'Bubble and Squeak'.
Alternatively, if you buy your potatoes rather than grow them, then just buy extra when they are cheaper in the shops, peel and par boil them then drop into the deep fat fryer until golden, let them drain, bag and freeze; you can do the same with parsnips too, lovely, roast veg on tap, it takes an hour.
When we operated our B&B in France we had a large plastic box we kept in the freezer, vegetables we had cooked but did not use went into that box, when full, the contents, when amalgamated with a good stock or roasted meat made a lovely soup or even Bubble and Squeak.
I am fortunate in that I have two 5 rod allotments. With sufficient skill and commitment, 10 rods are sufficient to ensure a family of two adults and two children can be almost self-sufficient in vegetables. This is a massive topic, there are loads of gardening books that deal with large gardens plots, allotments and even patio gardening, therefore it would be foolish for me to add to the collection, other than to tell you how I manage my garden and hopefully provide some useful tips. The photographs on this page are of my allotments, the produce from the allotments, my greenhouse and my patio pots.
You can read more in the monthly garden update articles...