Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Eat what we grow? Or grow what we eat?

Potatoes, tomatoes, lettuces, carrots – any allotment will undoubtedly be crammed full of crisp, tasty staples such as these, their flavours and freshness unparalleled in comparison to standard supermarket fare. But so many gardeners (and I include myself in this statement) often fail to realise that allotments, balconies and patios – any viable growing space – can all be used to grow food that we actually consume regularly.

Now you may be forgiven for thinking that I am stating the obvious, but you'd be surprised at how many gardeners simply grow the 'accepted allotment arsenal' of potatoes, carrots et al. Sure, I have had great success with runner beans on the balcony and am growing them again this year, but how often do I actually eat runner beans? Literally only once or twice a year. Admitting this stark fact to myself, I have resolved to unearth some truly unique recipes for my 'standard allotment fare' this summer, but am also re-examining the process of what I plant.

After perusing Nigel Slater's excellent 'Tender' cook book (a genuinely fantastic Christmas present), my girlfriend cooked a wonderful artichoke stew the other week, which I would most definitely like to eat again! With this truly mouth-watering recipe fresh in my mind, and upon seeing the discounted packet of artichoke in the Garden Shop at Kew Gardens, I decided that I should use my allotment as a means of producing food to eat and attempting to plant things that I regularly eat or would regularly like to eat – rather than eating things that I regularly plant.

For the artichokes, I purchased a packet of 5 Jerusalem Artichokes Fuseau for £1.24. These like well-prepared soil and need to be planted 15cm deep and 60cm apart. I dug a trench next to my potatoes and set about getting them planted, as you can see below.

In addition to this artichoke activity, I also planted some onions, which once again, were a reduced offer at Kew Gardens. I paid £0.74 for 50 Onion Centurion F1 bulbs (although didn't use all 50) and planted these 3cm deep in lines 12cm apart, using canes and string to guide me:

Don't get me wrong; I'm still all for 'standard allotment fare' and look forward to exploring unusual runner bean recipes and so-forth. However I have finally dispelled the mindset that I am eating what I grow – I am now growing what I eat, which already, feels a much more time-honoured and purposeful exercise.


  1. i definitely grow what i eat ! ha.

  2. I might be wrong as I'm a total veg noob on his first container, but don't artichokes need a permanent bed? And will give crops for a good number of years. You have probably taken this into acount but just not mentioned it in the post

  3. There's a world of difference between Jerusalem artichokes and globe artichokes. Commsnake is right: both artichokes are perennials and therefore need a permanent bed.

    I've got JA's in my back garden and I doubt I'll ever be able to get them out of the bed they're in. They're nice though; flowers like a small sunflower.



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