Could you cope if shop supplies dried up?

Perhaps we take the choice of fruit and vegetables at our local store too much for granted.

By Tom Pattinson
Saturday, 16 March, 2019, 15:50
Home-grown vegetables make economic sense, as well as give a sense of pride and confidence that they are safe to eat. Picture by Tom Pattinson.

Various thoughts occur during the weekly shop; concern about the air miles involved in getting some food, the use of plastic and pesticides, and topmost, the wish to buy local produce.

But what if the supply was disrupted? Are we capable of growing our own?

When it comes to identifying essential life skills, the ability to grow and cook your own food would be high on my list.

This is not to say that we should be totally self-sufficient in harvesting year-round fruit and vegetables, or that Michelin Chef status be achieved. But if the need arose, we should be able to make a meaningful contribution in the name of self-esteem, if not preservation.

A recent sci-fi movie, The Martian starring Matt Damon, flagged-up the extreme scenario when, stranded on the ‘Red Planet’ with limited food supplies and no garden, the astronaut had to grow plants in order to survive.

Unlikely to face such a dire situation, this fellow still believes in encouraging others into the world of plants.

Edible crops have always featured in home economics.

Historically, tracts of land cultivated by peasants on the medieval manor helped survival. Much later, the garden attached to workers’ cottages played a key role in supporting a family, for example, in a mining community.

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When the real threat of a break in Britain’s food supplies arose at the outbreak of World War II, tracts of land were devoted to the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign.

Even today the grow-your-own phenomenon remains part of our psyche, and encouragingly, allotment societies (www.nsalg.org.uk) report waiting lists for plots, the applicants coming from across the age demographic.

Why the continuing interest in this aspect of gardening?

Economics are part of it. The weekly shopping costs less when lettuce, potatoes, cabbage, tomatoes and the like are ready in your own garden or greenhouse.

Similarly, strawberries, raspberries, plums and apples can save you money as they crop over several weeks. Add a few home-grown ornamental plants for cut flowers and the savings mount up.

But that’s just the financial aspect. When you harvest an edible crop there is a sense of achievement, which, allied to the knowledge of how it has been grown, brings confidence that it’s free from pesticidal residue and safe to eat.

There are occasional failures; seeds refusing to germinate, plants attacked by pest or disease, crops yielding less than anticipated.

But these are far outweighed by the rewards.