With summer drawing to an end, Martyn Loach wonders whether growing your own vegetables is worth the effort.
After a summer of weeding, watering and wandering what this year’s crop will be like, the autumn bounty will be worth all the effort.
A harvest of broad beans, too many so lots will be frozen; beetroot to be pickled; raspberries to make jam if there’s any left after the children have had their share; and onions for curries right through the winter.
If anyone asks what’s the point in growing your own vegetables I don’t think any further explanation is required.
Doubters will undoubtedly point out that all this produce is available at a good price in the supermarket, or greengrocer if you are lucky enough to still have one.
To say they are missing the point would be kind. They are way off the mark and don’t realise that growing vegetables is all about seasonality, freshness and wanting to know where your food comes from. Even getting back to nature and feeling close to the earth if you’re in with Prince Charles.
Supermarkets now fly in produce from all over the world. Just look at the labels and you’ll find Egyptian potatoes, Spanish tomatoes and butternut squash from South Africa. Leaving aside the resultant carbon footprint, taste and goodness disappear rapidly from foodstuffs the minute they are harvested.
Pull a carrot from the ground, wash the earth off it and bite the end. Savour the crunchy texture and superb taste, you will never again think about buying one of those limp efforts that have been on display for days in the supermarket.
Okay, you can’t grow everything in this country, I happen to like okra which I have never grown successfully so I have to purchase it. However, with a heated greenhouse you can have a good attempt at quite a few ‘exotic’ vegetables.
Also, don’t be fooled into thinking that the variety of vegetables available to you in supermarkets is anything more than basic. These outlets want to stock produce that has the longest shelf life not the best texture or taste.
Do you ever see anything much other than Maris Piper or those bags of ‘white potatoes’ of dubious origin? And those bland Spanish tomatoes, weren’t they picked while still green, immature and lacking in sweetness so that they could be flown hundreds of miles?
On an allotment, even on your back yard using grow bags, you can have a varied selection of vegetables that are grown for taste throughout the summer rather than for longevity.
Seasonal Is Best
Vegetables are also seasonal for a reason. Lettuce, cherry tomatoes and radishes are wonderful in salads, while sprouts, parsnips and cauliflowers, that are picked later in the year, are winter stew essentials.
And whatever you grow, you know where it’s come from. You know that it hasn’t been sprayed with insecticides or pesticides or picked by people earning little more than a pittance wage. You’ve tended and grown it yourself, from seed to maturity, and it will give you a great deal of satisfaction.
Growing your own vegetables isn’t just about saving money. It’s about being able to produce amazing tasting food that money simply can’t buy.