Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Food Matters

Having been 'lucky' enough to have lived at both extremes, can honestly say that there has been far more happiness in my life when poor than when well-heeled. Possibly more to do with my love of challenges. Having what I want, when I want would be far too boring. Much prefer to try and reach my goals the hard way - then it is appreciated that much more. But then, that's me. Not everyone is the same.

Had an 'ad' sent via my email box and couldn't believe what I was reading. Perhaps another sign of the times. Seems it related to a new way of eating to improve our 'game play' when using computer games. Apparently the extra energy we gain by the suggested eating plan will give us the edge over our competitors. And we will then more easily beat them. Which reminds me - computer games are also now part of our standard of living. There are now many people out there who have an even better life than the Queen. At least we have more freedom of choice.

Last night caught the end of a political chat programme fronted by Andrew Neil. Jay Rayner (food critic) was a guest and of course the subject of food shortages caused by the volcano came up. As he rightly said (or perhaps not), only those who eat fresh pineapple will probably be affected. One of the other politicians cried out "oh, and I love pineapple chunks!".
There was one interesting bit of info... Apparently in this country we produce 62% of the food we eat. Some of that must be meat, but we would be able to grow more arable crops if necessary. A mention was made of over 90% at a pinch. We have only to see the fields full of yellow flowers to realise how much land is now given over to growing rape (for rape-seed oil). With our rainfall and green fields we have exactly the right conditions to grow good crops, even though they will not all be the same as the imports from other countries. The main thing is if push came to shove, we wouldn't starve.

One person mentioned how we are now all being urged to 'grow our own', and this was scoffed as of little worth at all. "what use is an allotment?"as though we would each be expected to grow enough to feed the five thousand. Economics apart, growing food for our own consumption is never a waste of time.
An allotment was originally an allotted piece of land just large enough to grow all the produce necessary to keep a family of four fed for a whole year (not such a large variety was grown in those days, but nevertheless still enough of a wide and seasonal assortment). Nowadays, these allotments are often divided into two as they are easier to manage, yet can still provide enough food to cut our costs dramatically.

Readers who are growing their own produce can affirm that even a small garden, patio or just a windowsill will produce edibles, and quite a number even in a small space, so obviously the more we grow the less we need to buy. Whether an economical choice or a 'forced upon us' need, it doesn't really matter. We should be growing own own produce (as has been done for centuries until recently) if only as a means to take some control of our own destiny, for if it comes to the crunch - who else can we rely on to provide? Having said that, we should still look out for those less fortunate. Share what we have, give and take and all that. It worked in wartime, so can still work now.

Today, woke to a brilliant blue sky with small clouds scurrying past, pushed along by a north wind which perhaps has blown away some of the volcanic dust - for at least the 'haze' seen during the past few days seems now to have disappeared. But still no rain. Luckily we have full water butts, and any spare clean household water is saved for the indoor plants (by this I mean the cooled water in the EasyYo jar - if it hasn't been boiled up again for the next batch). Or water used for steaming veggies. Even water left in a vase after the flowers have been removed.

You never know - this could be the year of the drought, and then when water is in short supply, another reason to complain. However strong the British spirit in times of disaster, we are very good at complaining. If it isn't one thing it is another. We just have to remember never to take things for granted, and learn how to cope if cope we eventually must.
If we have too many dry days ahead forecast, we can prepare for this by watering plants late evening so there is less chance of evaporation. Mulch the ground after watering, this also prevents sun drying out the soil next day.
On the other hand we may have a wet summer (so what's new?) then start cursing because the tomatoes won't ripen. Or slugs have eaten everything. Apparently slugs don't care for the smell of garlic, so plant these around a plot, or (my suggestion) sprinkle a little garlic salt around a tender plant.

One little experiment along the way. Wished to make a salad dressing that had more liquidity than the mayo normally has. Couldn't be bothered to make a proper French dressing, so instead 'watered down' some mayo with the sweet-and-sour liquid from a jar of Peppadew - this being composed of mainly water, vinegar, sugar and a few other things. This also has a sharp 'bite' - from the peppers I suppose. Blended with the mayo until it dripped from the spoon, it made a very good and flavoursome dressing.

Within days of buying large potatoes they now start sprouting. As do the small spuds if given the chance and why I keep these in the fridge to prevent this. So not worth buying potatoes in any amount until past their growing season - which is next autumn. Buy only what we need, and if any do start to sprout, rub these off immediately - they should then keep a few days more in good condition - and in the dark. Otherwise plant each spud in an odd corner of the garden.

If you have a very large potato throwing off several clumps of shoots, then this can be divided into chunks, each with shoots, and when planted each grows as it would if it was a small chitted' potato. Useful when planting directly into land rather than in a container. Do remember when growing potatoes in garden plots, if a very small potato has been left in the soil, it will then grow the following year into another potato plant. We even had one growing in a compost heap, either from a teeny weensy spud still fastened to the plant that had been pulled up and thrown with other herbage onto the compost, or could have come from a potato peeling that had a sprout attached.