Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Grow what you eat? or eat what you grow?

Urban self sufficiency is a myth.
We know this, right?
There are other phrases like 'self reliance' that help to diffuse the futility of my endeavours but really, the truth of the matter is that I will never produce more than a fraction of what my family consumes.

I am very lucky in that I have an allotment.
For those of you who hail from outside the UK (especially that someone who logs in regularly from Latvia....I would love to know who you are!) an allotment is a piece of land, rented from the local council, specifically for growing your own family's food.
This is mine.....
The dead grass on the left is someone else's allotment...the green grass on the right is the communal border....only the middle, cultivated section is mine.  
Allotments hark back to the industrial revolution when masses of country folk were needed to move from rural areas to the cities in order to work the mills and factories. The laws that gave poor people the right to rent a small plot of arable land remain but sadly, many of the allocated spaces do not and there are often long waiting lists.
So, where was I?
I am lucky to have an allotment and a garden. My garden is about 24 feet x 48 feet.
All of this means that I have quite a lot of growing space by London standards, and I can keep a few hens and beehive (but don't tell the authorities because neither are allowed!)

Yet despite my good fortune, if I want tomato or cucumber on my summer salad I must go and buy them because try as I might, I cannot get one to ripen before September.
I don't have room to grow wheat for bread or to make pasta (we eat a LOT of pasta).
There is nowhere near here to fish or hunt (well, you can fish but you have to throw them back and I don't really see the point)
Yesterday, I composted all twenty cape gooseberry plants which were laden with small, green fruit too late ever to reach yellow gorgeousness. 
And let's face it. London is just not the place to grow a mango.
I'm not sure life is worth living without the odd perfectly ripe mango!

We are self sufficient in eggs......but only in the summer months!
 This is entirely my own fault.
We choose our hens 
according to how pretty
they are, how friendly 
and how much damage
they do while free ranging.
So we've ended
up with a flock of fancy 
bantams instead of
year round layer

We're self sufficient in courgettes and winter squash. Impressive huh? Except that we never ate them before I grew them....and I only grew them because they were easy! Then, halfway through my first season and peering out from beneath a courgette mountain, I realised I needed a way to persuade my kids to eat the blimmin' things and so set about learning ways to cook them.

Perhaps this is the answer!
Should we alter our diet to reflect what we can grow?
I've successfully reconditioned my children to think that summer isn't summer without courgette fritters.
Broad bean hoummus and runner bean falafels (so long as no-one knew that's what they were) went down a storm.
Maybe I should convince myself that cucumber and tomatoes are no good in salad....and should only be pickled or canned for winter....nah! it's never gonna work.
I'm always going need the supermarket! 

Monday, November 01, 2010

A birthday, five pumpkins and a Unicorn cake!

The weather is getting cold and squally, the thick clay at the plot has turned to claggy, clinging mud and I am having a very busy week!
Little flower turned eight on Thursday.
I really didn't fancy a house full of squealing little girls so the week before I had suggested that she choose a friend to take to the cinema instead of having a party this year. So what if the pictures is really expensive? (the tickets alone cost £60 quid!!) It would be worth it for the peace and quiet.

Little flower seemed thrilled at this idea (which should have set off alarm bells in my head) and pootled off to make a shortlist.
The following day she confessed that, unable to choose, she had invited two friends.
The day after that, Wurzel admitted to inviting a third (via her parents) and two more to come round for tea!

 So it was that I ended up with a house full of squealing girls after all!
My mum made this amazing Unicorn cake at short notice and Wurzel rushed to the shops on his motorbike and bought all kinds of nasty junkfood for the squealing girls to eat.
And Little flower had a wonderful birthday....in fact, she wants exactly the same thing next year.

 The following day I set off to buy pumpkins for Halloween.
I am a little embarrassed to admit that my winter squash harvest didn't run to Halloween carvers but with Tescos selling at 50p each it seemed a shame to cut into the plot ones.
Blimey! look at the state of my back room!
I'm embarrassed about that anorl!

 Anyway....moving swiftly on! Wurzel's mum recently returned from a trip to Canada and brought home a book of pumpkin designs that we just had to try!

 Okay, I admit that we may have got a bit carried away!
But at 50p each I figured that five wasn't excessive.
 And they looked fantastic!

We made a huge spiced pumpkin cake (in a roasting tray) a massive stockpot of pumpkin soup and enough toasted pumpkin seeds to last until next Halloween!
There's still enough purée left for cookies and pumpkin pie!

Happy Halloween blogland!