All local produce. All free. None of it grown by me.

I feel this post should really be titled Confessions of a Failed Allotmenteer (if there is such a thing, perhaps it should be allotment keeper). The fact is our little experiment sharing my mother in law’s allotment has not been a huge success. That’s not to say that it’s been a massive failure either – we’ve grown potatoes and the various different types of garlic did well…

(not sure that digging in flip flops is really advisable, or barefoot, for that matter.)

And right now my Brussels Sprouts are fattening up nicely, or at least Sue says they are. But those three crops are the sum total of our efforts (there were some courgettes, but not that many, and the slugs made off with the runner beans). And they are probably a fair representation of our efforts too – or rather lack of effort. The fact is, the plot is just too far from home to be easily or conveniently worked into my day – which is why I am sharing Sue’s assessment of my Brussels sprouts with you rather than my own.

But of course I learned a huge amount. It was great to have a go at growing vegetables again, as having the room for decent sized vegetable beds is probably what I miss most about our old garden. Sue has written a fantastic book* on allotment gardening for Green Books, and I used to refer to it a lot back in London, and it was fun to have her on hand throughout the experiment, just a shame I wasn’t there often enough. The greatest irony is that all my free time last year was spent studying for my RHS level 2 certificate.

So, from the top: the raspberries** are from Sue’s fantastic plants, which produce vast quantities of delicious fruit year after year. The Borlotti beans, in their fabulously speckled pink and white pods, are also from Sue’s part of the allotment. The pears are from my sister’s tree – we had supper in her garden last week, with the regular rustle and whump of the pear tree lightening its load as the background music.

The plums were gathered on a local walk earlier in the holidays, and were destined for jam but were so perfectly ripe and delicious they only lasted a day in the bowl. Luckily some friends came to stay at the weekend bearing gifts of homemade plum jam, so we had a double harvest without any effort at all.

And at the bottom of the garden the hazel is scattering nuts and Sybil and I are competing for them – she snuffles about like a truffle hound and crunches them up. Once again the great “shall we, shan’t we” debate about the fate of the hazel falters as we remember how nice this nutty harvest is. I think another jar or two of homemade nutella might decide it.

* The first of what will, by the end of the week, be two, perhaps three, shameless plugs for members of my family. But, hey, what’s the point of a blog if you can’t do this sort of thing with impunity? 

**Look closely and you’ll see some Cheerios marooned on the edge of the table – nice.