Friday, 29 August 2014

Growing community

Look at these amazing plants. Do you know what they are?

Chickpeas. Having only ever seen them dried or out of a tin before I was amazed when my allotment neighbour showed me his row of chickpeas and generously gave me an armful of plants. I rushed home with them to show my kids, who were suitably impressed.

They grow a bit like peas and have soft furry pods with one or two chickpeas in them. The chickpeas are sweet like peas if eaten raw, but my neighbour told me to roast them in their pods in the oven for the best taste. Roasted they have a lovely nutty flavour and you can sit popping them as a healthy snack. We are definitely going to try growing these next year.

Now I may wish that I had a bigger garden, and I can see that travelling to the allotment is effort and can put people off. But I would never have learnt about chickpeas without being exposed to the diverse and experienced gardeners at the allotment. And there are so many other benefits too.

Look at these onions I was given by another generous neighbour.

And these delicious baby beetroot.

I have been so lucky to receive plants, vegetables and advice from so many of them. Even when I have nothing to pick of my own, I never seem to go home empty-handed.

My runner beans were a disaster this year. The first plants I set out were devoured by slugs, then only half the beans I sowed grew and the rest were devoured by slugs, and finally I planted some I had bought from a carboot sale, which looked rather pale and they really struggled to do anything. I don't understand it, as runner beans are so hardy and I had a glut of them in my garden last year. Still we haven't been without, as the other allotmenteers have kindly shared their glut of beans. There are definitely benefits to gardening in a community.

And I have also been foraging. The blackberries started ripening this year whilst it was still shorts weather. This is a bit of a problem as you end up with legs covered in scratches, but I have still managed to pick plenty for the freezer. There are still plenty out there to pick if you want to get some free.

During dog walks I have collected cobnuts or hazelnuts as they are more commonly known. You can pick them early while they are still pale, if the squirrels are likely to get them, and they will turn brown as they dry out. But best to leave them as late as you can. I am just starting to collect enough elderberries to make a large batch of cough and cold syrup in preparation for winter.

My plot has given me some delicious potatoes, including this pink heart shaped one!

The raspberries are in full swing now and need regular picking.

We have had our first sweetcorn and tomatoes. Below a jungle of leaves there are also some large pumpkins and at least 4 huge shark fin melons. I have never cooked these before so this should be interesting.... :-) I have also been given a recipe for the pumpkin leaves, which I never knew were edible.

At home we have had plenty of cucumber, including the round crystal lemon ones. There have been peas, French beans, courgettes, tomatoes and calabrese broccoli. Only one green courgette plant survived, along with a yellow one and a round one. Still they produce plenty. We went away for 6 days and came back to a fridge full of courgettes that my eldest son had picked and still more on the plants!

We have eaten lots of lovely fresh, colourful and tasty meals this summer, and I have even got my most fussiest eater to eat courgettes and green beans! But the best bit has got to be shopping! Looking at the produce in the supermarket and thinking " I don't need potatoes, or onions, or raspberries or broccoli......just carrots!


  1. I was just reading about growing chick peas the other day, and wondering if I should pop some in.. I decided against as I have such a tiny growing area, but one day, when I dig up the lawn..
    Loving to see the results of your summer garden and foraging. You must feel an enormous sense of accomplishment, just like Ma Ingalls:)

    1. Thanks Jo. Do you have a community growing scheme near you? Then may be you wouldn't need to dig up the lawn.

      It does make me happy these little small achievements, but there are equally days of disappointment and 'must do better'. I have learnt a lot this year, which is the main thing.

  2. Hi Judy, I grew chickpeas very unsucessfully last year in my polytunnel together with my friend who grew them outside-we were both unsuccessful. Rob Carter from ECO House Leicester gave the seed to us to try. We came to the conclusion that it just wasn't warm enough, however this year has been warmer. Does your friend manage to grow them every year at the allotment?

    Runner beans aren't hardy at all and even cold winds effects them and they sulk for a long time afterwards and sometimes even turn yellow and take a long time to recover. I think it is best to only plant them at the beginning of June in our area-though I know alot of people do risk planting earlier and get away with it ...but I wouldn't want to risk losing them.

    1. Thanks. I feel better about my runner beans now.

      These chickpeas were grown outdoors, but he did say that this year was good, but in a bad summer you may not get any. I got the impression that last year was a bad year. He does have a large poly tunnel, but as he was growing the chickpeas outside I assumed that is where they are best suited. Do you fancy giving them another try?