2017 was our first full year in the allotment and what a year it was! We had many successes and MANY failures, but I wouldn’t change any of it for a moment.
Here are a few of our highlights from the year.
…and so it began! We cleared all the patches, read extensively, sowed far too much of everything and just went for it. We had really limited experience – for me, absolutely zero experience and off we went!
Berry madness was fun. I’ve only recently been able to start eating berries again due to a stupid allergy so I was more than excited about this. We inherited the raspberry canes and strawberries from the previous plot holder so with a bit of pruning and TLC these were pretty easy and tasted delicious.
Broad beans are one of my favourites. As are peas. The Broad beans were surprisingly hardy and the peas were the sweetest I’ve ever tasted.
One thing which in my mind made me think ‘if i grow these I’ve made it as an allotmenteer’ were courgettes. I didn’t realise how easy they were and also just how prolific!! They were the veg which kept on giving. I ended up eating them grilled, roasted, pickled, as ratatouille, in the style of my friend Valeria in her new cookbook ‘Veneto’ and had to give dozens away also. The cucumbers were even more prolific to the point of insanity. Tasty insanity.
After learning the hard way about the damage of frost I managed to get kilos and kilos of sweet, fresh homegrown tomatoes. This is mainly because I sowed and planted so many that my allotment was almost half tomato plant. I didn’t prune them properly, they were leggy, I had to prop up all their extra stems with about 4 million bamboo canes and then had to pick everything as blight struck towards the end of the season, however I had a good couple of months of fresh toms and about 6 years worth of passata.
Being with a French man, the other half of my allotment was garlic, onions, radishes and parsley. We are still using our garlic now and it is so rewarding knowing that we are still adding an element from our allotment into so many meals.
Carrots and potatoes made me smile. I had read so much about carrot fly that I completely mollycoddled them however the results were great. All subsequent carrots which I planted for Christmas were extremely unsuccessful and tiny. I had a lot of potato advice from the Potato Shop in Tenterden whose beautiful spuds I purchase frequently from Brockley market. These Wilja and my Pink Fir Apple were a great success, however again, for Christmas, an utter failure! Try eating boiled Pink Firs with melted Sancey Richard Vacherin on top…oh my lord.
Broccoli was fun to watch grow as I had never seen it before, sadly just cut as a supermarket vegetable. It was incredibly exciting seeing it bloom in its leafy mane. My kale…well lets just say it is STILL growing…£1 seeds from Wilko proved to be the most successful and long lasting product on the entire plot! Fried kale with butter from the Beurrerie d’Etrez and our own garlic, on toast was a delicious started to many a main meal. I had heard Borage was a great addition to the allotment however I knew nothing about it. It turns out it is also prolific, leggy, self seeds and grows in an unruly fashion if you don’t keep it under control! I enjoyed its flowers in ice cubes for drinks and as a pretty addition to salads. A small tip – boil the water first before you use it for ice cubes. They become crystal clear and you can see the flowers in all their glory.
I made my first jam with my mum after a successful blackberry pick from the outer edges of our allotment. It was terribly sweet, however it was my first attempt and we won’t be following that recipe again for the amount of sugar it required!
We had stunted carrots, bolted rhubarb and pumpkins of all shapes and sizes however it was all so personal and a trying, yet completely therapeutic and rewarding experience.
This pumpkin here was destined for soup however we just kept eating it after roasting instead of getting that far. Perhaps the last remaining one will make it to the soup stage!
The successes mentally outweighed the ‘failures’ which were all a learning curve for us. We are currently looking through seed catalogues and books along with our purchases from France in the Summer, ready to start all over again very soon!