FRESH VEG, THE POLY... AND WILDLIFE
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.
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.