Everybody has to eat and for some food can become a passion or a love.

This week I’m going to be tucking into some Rhubarb grown at the allotment, can’t wait. We paid £2 for some Rhubarb from the shop the other day, to go with a dinner we planned for friends. It just didn’t have the punchy flavour I remember from my Grandad’s homegrown stuff.

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In researching this post about Growing Your Own, I discovered that The National Trust in the UK has run a campaign to get people eating locally and seasonally, it’s been running for a while and is something that many people can do even if they are on a budget. The simplest way of eating fresh vegetables or herbs is to grow them yourself. This year I’m going to try and calculate the savings I make just by popping along to the allotment (garden) once or twice a week.

Gardening is not expensive, although it is easy to get carried away with buying new pots, tools and seeds. However there are a number of places where you can get seeds for free or ways of trading them with other gardeners. Seed swaps are greta fun and it’s just a matter of looking in the right places or creating your own.

A few tips on what to grow even if you have a small garden:

  • Beans and peas are expensive to buy but really simple to grow yourself. They can range from £1 to £2 in the supermarket even when they are ‘in season’. You can select dwarf varieties, so they can be put in containers if you haven’t got much space, you can get a good couple of helpings for a few meals from each plant. I’ve started to sow a few beans and peas already on my windowsill. Peas and beans love to grow upwards and so can be tied inventively up different objects in the garden. I knew someone who grew them up her drain pipe. In the past, I’ve had a hand in growing them around an unsightly telegraph pole in the middle of a plot.

Growing beans up a Telegraph Pole

  • Courgettes can and do grow themselves, and produce a vast crop. Two plants are plenty to provide a household with enough for two meals a week for a couple of months, which will save you money and get you to be inventive in the kitchen. Unfortunately a lot of people don’t seem to like courgettes. I think it’s because they don’t know what to do with them. They make excellent spagetti salad when peeled, drizzled with lemon juice and coriander. They also make excellent courgette cake and are a great way of bulking out any meal in a healthy way. One of our friend doesn’t eat vegetables, so when we have a curry or Spag Bol, I finely grate the courgette into the pan whilst he’s out of the kitchen. He still doesn’t suspect a thing!
  • Pumpkins and squash cost a  small  fortune and they are great grown in your garden – they do very well in a wide range of soils and produce a good crop. Once picked, they last for ages if stored properly  and should last you all the way through to Spring and keep you going with vegetables form your garden even in the ‘hungry gap’
  • Tomatoes for the cost of a small bag of compost and getting yourself to a plant swap or buying some seeds, it’s really worth growing your own. They end us juicer and tasting much better than the rubbish imports we get. Last year we had tomatoes all the way up to December as they were left in a bowl on my kitchen windowsill ripening and getting redder. This year try a yellow tomato like Cherry tomato ‘Ildi’ which has clusters of 75 tomatos if looked after well or a big beefsteak tomato like a blight resistant variety, ‘legend‘.

  • Cut and come again’ mixed salad leaves are fabulous value for money. When I ran out and had to go to the Supermarket I had a heart attack when I saw the cost of lettuce or bagged salad. Fresh leaves can be cut as and when required and they’re perfect for tubs, troughs or window boxes. Getting a simple packet of seeds like this is a great start – Salad mix.
  • Strawberries are the best soft fruit to grow at home. They don’t need any pruning, are great in small areas, look pretty and, most importantly, taste much better when grown yourself. If you know anyone with any strawberry plants, ask them to save you suckers for next year – there is no need to buy them when they send out runners and produce miniature versions of themselves.
  • Flowers some flowers are edible and make a spicy addition to a salad other just look pretty and make you feel warm and happy when you bring them inside and put them on the windowsill. To cut and come again pick the Sweet Pea. To attract bees pick the Sunflower which can be dotted around vegetables and put in pots and then the seeds can be eaten after the summer season or be left for the birds to feed on.
  • Herbs Don’t be sucked into buying herbs at the Supermarket, they are very easy to grow yourself. Spend £1 on a packet of seeds and grab some compost and you’re ready to grow the best garnish to your food. On my top list of herbs – Chives, Parsley, Mint, Rosemary and Sage. This week I’m growing cress for egg sandwiches.

There are a lot of other vegetables that I would recommend that you try and grow and I’ll be writing about them as the year progresses. For now try to grow at least one thing this year and see what a difference it can make to your diet and the cost of your food!

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