We’re marking British Food Fortnight from 22 September to 7 October by celebrating the Great British home-grown fruit and veg revival.
It seems that we’ve fallen back in love with ‘The Good Life’, with not enough allotments to go around, and more of us creating our own fruit, veg and herb plots at home.
The UK’s first own-grown food survey since the Second World War’s Dig for Victory campaign is currently under way, as home-owners and local communities are encouraged to ‘dig in’ for a healthy lifestyle and self-sustainability. More of which later, but first, a brief look at where it all began.
Allotments go all the way back to Anglo Saxon times, from 410 to 1066. But today’s system of allotments was a response to the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s, when there was no such thing as The Welfare State. Pockets of land were given to ‘the labouring poor’ so they could feed themselves. Allotments were therefore born out of necessity.
Later, at the end of the First World War, an Act of Parliament was passed that allowed land to be made available to all. This was primarily to help the servicemen returning from the war.
Today there is a statutory obligation on local authorities to provide allotments where there is a demand – but nowhere near enough are being provided. The National Allotment Society reckons more than 90,000 gardeners are waiting for an allotment.
Which brings us back to the MYHarvest (Measure Your Harvest) survey. It’s being carried out by researchers at the University of Sheffield to help us get a picture of what and how much we are growing at home or in our allotments.
It comes at a time when more of us are growing fruit, veg and herbs – and amid concern over the UK’s food sustainability. The researchers and its supporters, including the National Allotment Society, are hoping it will lead to more space being provided for grow-your-own projects.
The survey began in 2017 and runs until the end of March 2019 – anyone who grows produce at home or in allotments can take part by sending in details of their harvest (www.myharvest.org.uk).
According to the data so far, there is a clear leader in the veg we like to grow the most: let’s hear it for the humble spud. Potatoes are grown by the most people, while strawberries are the most productive when it comes to yield. Apples provide a bountiful harvest too, while courgettes, tomatoes and plums are also popular amongst home-growers.
Growing your own doesn’t just save money, it’s also rewarding in other ways. It encourages a healthy diet, it’s fun and it’s great for keeping fit. Yep, it seems that people who grow their own really do know their onions!