Maintaining an allotment with a full time job is a challenge. Although I do love planning and sowing and planting, watering (in the early morning), even weeding, TBH I find the process of stopping off after work and harvesting and processing the food before dinner quite tedious.
It’s not so much the actual digging up and picking, that’s quite enjoyable, it’s that plus the shelling and washing before cooking that just makes the whole process simply too time-consuming for it to be enjoyable.
So I’ve hit on a new evening eating strategy – Instead of harvesting, processing and cooking I’ve switched to grazing and eating immediately as I harvest except for those things which need cooking, which I then take back, wash and just cook up with some salt or soy sauce and that’s dinner. For those things which I think need washing, I just put them in a colander and run them under the tap, everything else which is most things I just eat straight.
It’s a bit weird – Today I started with the radishes – some of which had got a bit large, so I just ate all the non-woody bits and chucked the rest on the compost, then I moved onto the Kale, which was delicious, and the one small head of broccoli which the slugs hadn’t demolished (honestly, freshly picked broccoli more than anything else tastes completely different to the stuff you buy, it’s actually completely different and not even comparable, just a shame it’s so difficult to grow).
Then onto the mange tout, which is again another world when freshly picked, before moving on to some spring onions and lettuce/ chard and spinach, as well as picking some for tomo’s lunch box, before moving onto the strawberries, also saving some for later as there were too many to eat in one sitting/ standing/ bending down/ whatever you want to call it.
I also picked shed loads of broad beans and cooked them up at home with a bit more kale I’d saved.
I’d hoped to have some new potatoes by this time – but I’m reluctant to dig them up because having tickled them they seem a bit small – I think I over-nitrogened the soil.
Anyway, although eating in this way feels a bit nuts, it’s actually completely sane when you reflect on the following massive advantages –
1. Time efficiency – It saves time in terms of cooking, the ‘sit down meal’ and the washing up, also it does tend to mean you maintain the allotment while eating, picking off the odd weed for example.
2. It’s the cheapest way to eat – Theoretically, if you could just get used to just grazing, there’s no need to spend money on what Michael Pollan would call ‘edible food like substances’.
3. Health benefits – The fresher, the higher the nutrient content – You can’t get much fresher than two seconds from picking to mouth.
4. It’s the most natural and ethical way to eat – in that it’s the furthest removed from the industrial-food chain.
5. It gives me this strange sense of connection with the !Kung Bushmen of the Khalari and other traditional hunter-gatherer tribes – completely unfounded I know, but in my deluded little head I feel in-touch with my pre-historic self.
6. I actually like the fact that it’s a slightly nuts way to eat – It’s habit breaking. For example I can’t watch TV while I’m grazing, well I guess I could with a 4G iPad, but honestly, it’d hardly be ergonomic.
Incidentally I wish I had some nuts, that’d make the whole grazing process even more wonderful, or at least it would in the late autumn, assuming the squirrels are willing to share.
I’ve also been inspired to look up other inspiring examples of people who have set up the ultimate grazing gardens – here are a couple of examples….
Paul Gautschi is one of the world’s most inspiring gardeners – In this excellent video: Back to Eden, Paul uses serious mulch, mostly wood-chip which has turned into the most amazing compost and produces the most amazing quality looking fruit and veg for (after you’ve set it all up!) minimal effort. There’s some great grazing footage at about 1 hr 25 (NB – It is freely available on Vimeo if you click the link!)
Back To Eden OFFICIAL FILM from Dana & Sarah Films on Vimeo.
I’m using this as a model for my allotment, and am now trying to spend at least 60% of my time building compost rather than maintaining (I think the ratio should be higher, but I’ve got to be realistic!)
Closer to home, I’ve never been but one of the most interesting, and possibly largest examples of a food forest is Plants for a Future, established by Ken and Addy Fern many years ago.There’s footage of Ken grazing his ‘garden for all purposes’ from about 16 minutes in.
(NB the first section’s worth watching too – on the classic forest-garden of Robert Hart.)
Anyway, I don’t want to get lost in Forest gardening, I haven’t quite got enough money to buy the land to go there yet – The point of the videos is that they’re good examples of other people who graze, and on a much larger scale than me, and that proves I’m not nuts, I think.