October, for many of us, conjures up that glorious smell of harvest festival in churches from bygone years and verses of ‘We plough the fields and scatter…’. All the wonderful colours and forms of the fruits and vegetables were a sight to behold. Truly a time of plenty from the garden. In the ’70s much of what the older generation were bringing in to church(and putting on their dinner tables) was from their post war allotments and gardens and would bare little resemblance to the produce we buy in the supermarket today. It would probably also be a lot more nutritious and sustainable than the beautifully turned out, uniform, out-of-season, perfectly ripened fare we find on the brightly lit, regulated aisles today.
What went wrong?!
Who was it that told us we needed perfectly rounded apples with not a single blemish?
Who dictated that our strawberries should be available all year long?
Whose idea was it that potatoes should be a minimum size?
What often comes out of the garden is misshapen, scarred or split. This by no means makes the produce unusable. The skill…the challenge….is to take that vegetable and make it into something fantastic and nutritious.
The nutritious element is looked after by the soil and all it’s brilliant mechanisms;worms, bacteria, yeasts, fungi all play their part in liberating minerals for use by plants. Sadly, because of modern agricultural practices, much of the mineral content of soils today has been lost.
However, growing your own food gives you a greater degree of control over the soil and it’s impact on the food we grow and eat.
Practices such as:
- leaving the root systems of leguminous plants in the ground will add nitrogen to the soil.
- not rotavating the soil to allow worm populations to build up
- using green manures
will all add to the quality of the soil.
The fantastic element is down to us and comes in many guises and doesn’t matter one jot if the apple is pitted, the strawberry asymmetrical, the carrot twisted or you’ve stuck the fork in the potato.
So-if you are offered a neighbour’s cooking apple windfalls, surplus carrots or small onions, go for it! The chances are it will be considerably better for you than something produced commercially which could have been sprayed, fertilised and held in cold storage for up to a year.
The overgrown beans, pumpkin peel and tiny carrots are still very tasty alternatives to mash and the chickens will eat their fill of them producing large, high quality eggs.