Grow your own: it’s good for you and the environment
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Growing our own fruit and veg is something we should all consider, says gardening columnist Debbie McMorran - for the good of the environment and our own mental health.
In the last few weeks I've seen a number of advertisements for apple fairs and events. Looking out of the window I can also see quite a few which have fallen from the big apple tree in our back garden onto the lawn.
With the turning of the seasons, and the recent colder weather, it is the perfect time for making apple pies, to be served warm with lashings of custard. There are sure to be hundreds of people who attend the apple celebrations over the next few weeks - but I have been wondering how many of those attending will be drawn to grow their own apples in future?
With the current focus on sustainable living, and with huge pressure on supermarkets to start cutting down, and hopefully cutting out their use of single-use plastics altogether, it seems strange that people feel so passionately about these issues without considering doing something about it, and growing their own fruit and veg wherever possible.
For many people, of course, it's an issue with space. Green spaces are decreasing, and over-development means that with land being so valuable, many homes are now not given much garden at all.
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Similarly, with the price of property being so high, when people do have the luxury of having a decent sized garden, they often either extend their homes (thus reducing their garden), or sell off land to make some money. These are some of the reasons that many people don't think they have enough room to grow their own fruit and vegetables. Of course, there are lots of ways around this - with many vegetables particularly, being suitable for container growing. Even apple trees can be found in small varieties, which don't need to take over your whole garden.
We are fast approaching another festival where thousands and thousands of vegetables which could be easily grown at home will be purchased in supermarkets. The origins of the Jack O'Lantern and its connection with Halloween, can be traced back to Ireland, where the pumpkin was not a native vegetable, and instead turnips were carved and a candle placed inside to ward off evil spirits. When Irish settlers arrived in America, this tradition soon evolved to the current tradition we know today, using pumpkins.
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Pumpkins are relatively easy to grow, and don't need as much space as you might think. There is a lot of satisfaction in using a home-grown pumpkin to carve your lantern, but with the big supermarkets offering large pumpkins at such a low price, it almost certainly seems pointless to go to the effort of nurturing your own. It will be interesting to see whether - Brexit-dependent - we see a change in the prices of the items that we can buy in the supermarkets, and whether there is a move towards becoming more self-sufficient.
Having grown up in a home where the majority of our fruit and vegetables were grown at home, I have always been fortunate enough to not only benefit from the extra taste found in home-grown vegetables, but also to be eating food which hasn't travelled hundreds of food miles.
I can't help but wonder whether the ever increasing trend for eco-products - reusable water bottles, cotton produce bags and organic food - is because they are available in more expensive 'lifestyle' supermarkets such as Waitrose. There is no doubt that a fairly decent financial outlay is required to be able to keep up with all of these commendable lifestyle choices, and until we can address these high price-tags, we can't realistically expect those with lower incomes to be able to keep up with the sustainable food choices that are being promoted.
In bygone days, the idea of growing your own food was a way of saving money - people without high salaries wouldn't have dreamt of buying all of their fruit and vegetables when they could be grown at home for a fraction of the price. I think one thing that would bring this back into common practice would be if more spaces were opened up for allotments in local communities.
It is a wonderful thing that allotment waiting lists continue to exist as it shows there are still people who have a desire to grow their own, but sadly they do put people off. And often when people have the opportunity of a place, they keep hold of it for many years, in order to really see a good return on their crops - meaning that new allotment holders don't get a chance.
If local authorities could set aside more space to create new allotments when they are happily granting permission to developers to build more houses, we might find that there was a shift back to the old ways of doing things.
There wouldn't then be such an issue with single-use plastics and food miles in supermarkets, as we would be all growing our own vegetables, and reaping the reward of not just the delicious food, but the boost to our mental health in the time spent outside nurturing them as they grow!