Real Men Sow

An Excellently Obvious Allotment Beginners Tip: Grow What You Eat!

a summer evening's harvest

…and why I need reminding of it: there are a bunch of parsnips in the bottom of my fridge. They’ve been there nearly two weeks.

I remembered they were there when I was cooking yesterday. ‘I must use those up,’ I muttered to myself as I pushed them aside in favour of something else.

That something else was cavolo nero – something else that I actually really like to eat.

I was cross with myself. One of my favourite GYO beginner tips is grow what you like to eat. Yet every year I waste space with veg that we don’t eat much of.

Parsnips are one such veg. We’re not much of a Sunday roast family, and I went off parsnip soup a while ago. So why do I carry on growing parsnips every year? Why don’t I follow my own advice!

It’s a pretty obvious concept when you think about it, but still one that often passes me by, despite their being a number of excellent reasons to stick to growing what you eat.

You’ll save money #1 – eat what you would otherwise buy
If you eat a lot of a certain veg, it makes sense to grow as much as you can. If you only eat a couple of cauliflowers a year, I’d recommend buying them. For good money saving returns, concentrate on the crops that you and your family eat lots of.

We munch through loads of squashes in our household, as well as extra beetroot and French beans. Veg such as these can be stored, frozen or pickled, so make them a great option for money saving crops all year round.

You’ll save money 2 – you won’t buy loads of seeds you don’t need
This always reminds me of my first trip to the nursery. The sun was out, and I was as keen as mustard. There weren’t many seeds that didn’t go in to my basket that day. If you could grow it on an allotment (and even if you couldn’t in the case of the indoor aubergines), I bought it.

You could imagine my embarrassment (and shock) when the till rung up nearly fifty quid. Ouch. Thanks goodness for my mum offering to go halves for her garden.

(I never did grow half those seeds…!)

You won’t waste your food
See parsnips in blog intro…

Not growing veg you don’t eat? You can use the extra space for an experiment
Every year, I like to try a different crop that I’ve never grown before. This helps develop my growing knowledge and adds extra interest to the season. In the past, I’ve experimented with sweet potatoes, melons, aubergines and different varieties of squashes.

I’ve found some real winners from these experiments, such as the tasty and long keeping Crown Prince squash, and the prolific pink fir apple potato.

Of course, you can just not use the extra space…
Not using the extra space you’ve created by avoiding some veg is definitely just as much of a valid option too.

Concentrating on nurturing the other veg that you really want to crop well is important, and if growing less allows you to focus on those mainstay crops then this can only be a good thing. It is definitely better to grow 8 excellent crops, than 15 average ones. :)

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  1. MarcelJanuary 13, 2015 at 9:37 pmReply

    Grow what you eat is a good tip. For beginners who are growing what they don’t eat you can always give your homegrowns to your neighbours.

    It’s a great way to foster relationships!

  2. JamesJanuary 14, 2015 at 9:58 amReply

    Sometimes I like growing things that I don’t necessarily like to eat, just because I like the plant, etc. We have rabbits and chickens that will recycle anything that would otherwise go to waste – having a few recycling animals around is highly recommended as it has cut our organic waste down to zero.

    • Jono

      JonoJanuary 14, 2015 at 6:20 pmReplyAuthor

      Hi James. Thanks for your comment. I’ve heard of people growing perpetual spinach for their animals, which I thought was pretty neat. Cheap food and very productive crop.

  3. davidJanuary 15, 2015 at 4:01 pmReply

    Actually, roasted parsnips without the meat are still pretty good and these roots are great in casseroles and curries.You could also par boil and then saute them with cavolo nero and some onions.

    I’m finding that the experimental crops often stay that way eg the red celery that I grew in 2014 took all year to get going and is still sitting in the ground uneaten.
    However the various new squash types were great.

    Proud of myself yesterday as I called into the garden centre especially to find red brussels sprout seed.Bought a packet and resisted buying anything else to add to my already too large a stock of veg seeds for this season.

  4. Tracy BoseJanuary 18, 2015 at 10:02 amReply

    Hi Jono,
    parsnip cooking suggestion. My sis gave us these at Christmas. Although I do like ‘snips anyway.

    Toss parsnip chunks in oil and Dijon mustard dressing, roast in tin and drizzle over very small amount of honey for final 5 mins.

    Hope it’ll help shift those in your fridge bottom!

    Excellent post as usual :)


  5. MattJanuary 20, 2015 at 3:15 pmReply

    Good advice that I wish I’d followed sooner. There’s nothing worse than chomping through veg you feel obliged to eat because you took the trouble to grow it. Much better to have a glut of something you love! But in my case this actually means more parsnips :)

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meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope. However, over a decade later, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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