This week is National Allotments Week. The theme for this year is ‘Growing the Movement’, so it seemed only right to help spread the word.
I love allotments, particularly community allotments. This week, many allotments are holding open days so you can find out more about how you can get involved.
I’m a member of the Transition Loughborough allotment and find it relaxing, satisfying – and a great way to reduce food bills.
Here are a few of the things that are in season at the allotment at the moment.
Nasturtium flowers, courgette flowers, marigolds and borage are just a few of the edible flowers around.
Throw a handful into salad to add a peppery bite, with a hint of cucumber from the borage. It’s so much tastier than leaves alone, and instantly brightens up dinner on a dull day.
Call flower salad ‘fairy food’ to tempt a fairy-loving child who’s fruit-and-veg-averse – though do make sure they know that fairies are very careful about the flowers they eat, as some are poisonous and you don’t want children eating any flower they encounter
You can use edible flowers in chutneys or to garnish drinks too. Or scatter them over seasonal berries for a simple but beautiful end to a meal.
Squash is a great, vitamin-rich food that can be used as a vegetable side dish, curried, stewed or chutneyed, among other things.
I added fresh coriander seed (also from the allotment) to my squash chutney and it works well.
These are just coming into season and are another versatile crop that can be used as a vegetable accompaniment, turned into chutney, brined and canned, dried, or turned into soup.
Potatoes are another vegetable that are versatile, filling, and can be kept for a while, particularly if you prepare them in the right way.
Use for soup, stew, curry, mash, vegetable bakes or rosti. You can freeze parboiled potatoes, mash, and potato cake dough if you have a potato glut. I freeze in individual portions for ease. Or you can store the potatoes in the dark.
To make rosti, grate potatoes, put into clean tea towel, squeeze hard so the juice runs out, season the potato then fry in hot fat, pressing down with the spatula to encourage the potato to stick together.
These look really good when golden brown and sprinkled with fresh rosemary. Add roast vegetables, fresh tomato and parmesan or fried mushrooms for a supper that’s suitable for guests too, or just eat with baked beans for a comforting treat on a cold morning.
Rosti are a great gluten free alternative to bread too: you can use them to make a sandwich when they cool.
The joy of the Loughborough allotment is there’s always something coming into season as other things pass.
The currants, gooseberries and strawberries of early summer are being replaced with carrots, sweetcorn, raspberries and rhubarb. This means there is always something new (and healthy) to look forward to.
Best of all, in a community allotment, all it costs is a little time weeding, watering and tending the crops. This makes allotments ideal if you have little income but some time to spare. It’s a great activity for kids too – and they’re much more likely to eat food they’ve grown themselves.
Find out about allotments near you if you don’t have one: community gardens are ideal if you have health issues that make managing a garden alone a challenge.
Joining a community allotment is a great way to cut your food costs – with the added bonus of meeting fellow gardeners and spending time outdoors. Add in foraging and you shouldn’t need to buy fruit or veg for at least the next month or two if you join an allotment this week.