FRESH VEG, THE POLY... AND WILDLIFE

Country Smallholding - - Resilient Growing with Kim Stoddart -

Peas Please

An ab­so­lute for­tune is spent an­nu­ally (an es­ti­mated £296.6 mil­lion) on the mar­ket­ing of food each year. 95% of this goes to­wards the pro­mo­tion of con­fec­tionery, snacks and soft drinks, with a pid­dly 5% al­lo­cated to fruit and veg­eta­bles. The Peas Please ini­tia­tive is hop­ing to change mat­ters with the launch of Veg Ad fund, which aims to su­per­charge the mar­ket­ing of such fresh pro­duce. Set up by the Food Foun­da­tion, WWF, Food Cardiff and Nour­ish Scot­land, it’s aim­ing to make a real dif­fer­ence. TV chef and pre­sen­ter, Hugh Fearn­leyWhit­tingstall who is sup­port­ing the cam­paign said: “It’s time to shout about how great veg is, and how vi­tal it is for fam­i­lies to buy, cook and eat more of it. But un­like all the junk food and con­fec­tionery we are re­lent­lessly sold ev­ery day, our de­li­cious veg­eta­bles are not ‘owned’ by mas­sive global brands – so they don’t get the mar­ket­ing and ad­ver­tis­ing clout they de­serve. Hav­ing a pooled mar­ket­ing bud­get from re­tail­ers, pro­duc­ers and gov­ern­ment is a bril­liant idea – it means we can get top agen­cies be­hind the mar­ket­ing of veg, which will drive up de­mand and boost con­sump­tion.” As not ev­ery­one has the op­por­tu­nity to grow pro­duce of their own, it’s heart-warm­ing to see a pos­i­tive ini­tia­tive ex­tol­ing the virtues of fresh fruit and veg con­sump­tion.

Poly­tun­nel grow­ing

The tra­di­tional ad­vice for win­ter bras­sica leaf staples such as kale, chard and spinach is to pull them out about now to make way for other crops, be­fore they flower and set seed. Yet whilst you want to make the most of your un­der cover grow­ing space, pulling out all of th­ese plants at the ear­li­est op­por­tu­nity isn’t al­ways the best course of ac­tion. For one, if you leave a few bras­si­cas in the ground to flower, they’ll pro­duce the most de­light­ful flo­ral ar­ray which is ex­cel­lent at at­tract­ing and sus­tain­ing a wide range of ben­e­fi­cial pol­li­nat­ing in­sects early in the sea­son. Even if you’re not seed-sav­ing, it’s worth do­ing for the spec­ta­cle of see­ing your plants (and tun­nel) abuzz. Also, it’s worth ex­per­i­ment­ing with try­ing to grow on at least a few of your bras­si­cas, as by cut­ting them dra­mat­i­cally back you can en­cour­age boun­ti­ful new growth which pro­vides a good few plants worth of pro­duce from just one. They may even go onto last a few years as many of mine have – pro­duc­ing a hardy, su­per pro­duc­tive plant that just keeps on giv­ing!

Wildlife watch Dan­de­lions-think be­fore you mow

Early in the year, th­ese so called weeds are a god­send to bees in par­tic­u­lar when other nec­tar sources are rare. So al­though you don’t want them set­ting seed and spread­ing all over your veg patch, they do have a valu­able part to play when it comes to the pol­li­na­tion of your plants. The ac­tual plants them­selves are ed­i­ble and in­cred­i­bly good for you in a myr­iad of ways. The young leaves can be eaten as part of a salad, the flow­ers made into a coun­try wine and the roots eaten or ground to make a re­put­edly good sub­sti­tute for cof­fee.

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