Tuesday 24 November 2020

24th November 2020 - Lockdown 2 - Day 20 - Book Review and home grown

Recently I have finished reading "A Green and Pleasant Land" by Ursula Buchan, borrowed from the library just before the second lockdown. 

There's a collective folk memory based on the "Dig for Victory" poster, an idealistic image of everyone on the home front growing their own crops and being self-sufficent. This book sets out to explain what actually happened and the different approaches to ensuring that the nation had enough to eat during the wartime years. 

Much has been made of how parks and public spaces were turned into allotments and how it was encouraged for people to turn over large amounts of their garden to fruit and vegetables. However, a survey done in 1944 showed that under half of households grew some of their own fruit and vegetables either at home or on an allotment. There would be many reasons for this, not least of which either space at home or lack of time or manpower to undertake this, though many observed during the war that many who could have grown their own did not do so. 

The book also looks at cultivation on farms, the efforts of the Women's Land Army, how gardening was covered in the media, and how changing farming practices, for instance with chemicals, changed the landscape and habitats. The efforts of the WI, particularly in preserving fruit and distributing food, are also documented. 

My view of grow-your-own is this - if you have room to grow something for yourself, you should. Whilst even our present Covid-19 crisis does not compare to the hardships and issues encountered in the Second World War, those who can take a little of the pressure off the food supply chain should do so, and indeed reduce their food miles and reap the benefit of ultimate freshness that the market can't provide. That being said, I acknowledge that not everyone can do this, though I often mention my grandparents growing tomatoes and cucumbers in the window of a tenth floor council flat in inner city Leeds! 

It is not about total self sufficiency either, most of us are not lucky enough to have the two or three acres that would make this even remotely achieveable. However, with a little planning you can have elements of many of your meals that are entirely your own growing efforts. 

Today, for instance, we had home grown preserved pears on my porridge and home made damson jam (damsons from the allotment) on my oatcakes at breakfast. At lunch, a home grown apple with more damson jam on one of the sandwiches. At tea, with the pie was home grown potato, as well as home grown carrots and parsnip, and a little spinach beet, broccoli and some very small sprouts (the latter three are pretty much at the end of the crop now!). These are all from the allotment and served two people.  

Even if you don't have that much room, pears and apples can be container grown minarette trees and carrots can be grown in an old dustbin or tyre stack. Spinach beet is a cut and come again crop, so should be able to be grown in a large container like salad leaves. 

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