It seems obvious now, but it took ten years to realise that I should be growing what I like to eat. I never had a garden and had no real interest in growing vegetables, but, in order to “beat the system”, rising prices, lower wages, lower quality etc. I bought a woodburner (HETAS approved of course) and then decided to get an allotment. It took a while on the waitng list, but eventually I did indeed have the lease on a 278 square metre patch of land.
I then set about growing stuff. I looked around and thought of all the expensive vegetables that I could grow for next to no outlay and I proceeded down this path. I can remember one year growing enough Calabrese to fill my large upright freezer. Most of it was covered in caterpillars and was inedible and the rest was blanched and put in the freezer. We ate a little of it and threw the rest out a few years later. The fact is, we don’t like Calabrese that much and why we grew so much is still puzzling to this day.
But, still I persisted growing things I didn’t normally eat, after all, you can buy a bag of spuds for a few quid can’t you. I grew Pumpkins because they took up a lot of space. They ended up in the bin at the end of the season. Do you like Courgettes? I don’t, but I still grew buckets of the stuff because it was “easy”. In order not to waste the Courgettes, I learned how to cook Courgette soup (not that nice to be honest), and also Courgette Moussaka, which is OK, but, not that good really.
I also grew vegetables that were “unusual”, like Scorzonara, which, to my mind, now that I’ve tasted it, is a complete waste of time. I tried growing vegetables that were very expensive only to find, I don’t like most vegetables actually. It doesn’t help when the prize for “best allotment” is judged on “variety”. Most allotment owners on my site were growing very small quantities of different vegetables, so they could boast of having 48 or so, different varieties of vegetable on their plot. The fact is, most of that veg was placed in the compost bin at the end of the season. Running an allotment is a definite leisure hobby to most folk.
Only in the last couple of seasons have I decided to grow what I actually like to eat. I don’t even think about cost as this is a de-motivator. For example, why grow peas when you can buy a large bag of frozen peas for a quid? On that basis, why grow anything? No, I like potatoes, peas, carrots, green beans, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, and, if I have to eat my “greens”, a bit of kale, a bit of cabbage, a bit of spinach and a tiny amount of salad. Oh, and tomatoes too, but only in sauce. This season, I’m growing in long rows and I have nine long rows at the front of the plot, that is, potatoes (in 20 sacks), 3 x carrots, 2 x leeks, 2 x green beans (bush beans, stringless), and one row of bush type peas (I normally grow Kelvedon Wonder). At the back of the allotment, I have my chickens, laying four or so eggs a day, I have 20 x asparagus plants and I have a netted area for 3 x kale negro toscana and 7 x red cabbages.
All, these things, I like to eat, and, I have gone a step further. Which potato is most useful to me? Because that is the one I need to grow. I’ve decided Maris Piper is about the best for my family, because we like chips, roast potatoes and for boiled “new” potatoes, I prefer charlotte. Peas are kelvedon wonder, or any small bush type pea. Bush type, stringless french (green) beans are easy to grow and delicious, they can also be grown on for dried beans for soups and stews (and next years beans). Big carrots and leeks are preferred to smaller varieties. I don’t really like salad tomatoes but my wife does, so, I’m growing Grushkova for tomato sauce and I prefer Lata for small cherry type salad tomatoes. So, at last, I’m growing things I might actually like to eat. Most of the produce will end up in the freezer. Frozen chips, roast potatoes and potatoes for boiling. Blanched and frozen green beans, carrots (julienned). Leeks can be chopped and frozen. Tomatoes can be skinned and turned into sauce for pizza’s, bolognaise base etc. Asparagus can be frozen, but I will probably eat it fresh as soon as harvested. Peas? I’ll probably get a few bags to freeze, but next season I’ll also grow some tall varieties to dry for soup.
So that’s it really. Grow what you like and you’ll probably succeed. Weigh all your produce, so that you can pat yourself on the back at the end of the season, but, don’t worry about the fact that you’re only saving a few quid a year. Growing your own food is about feeling content within yourself and it’s also great exercise too.