Down with onions. And potatoes. And (most) carrots.
There. I’ve said it. I’m out. I’m a vegetable snob. You’re shocked, I know, but it’s what I am so you might as well get used to it.
And this year I’m going to embrace the veg snob within. No more will I hide behind the disguise of old-fashioned allotment values. No more will I dutifully plant the usual batch of potatoes (early and main crop), onions (red and white) and Nante carrots in neat rows. No more will I bow to the apparent wisdom handed down by generations of old men in sheds with flasks of Bovril and prizes from their runner beans.
Because the world has changed. We don’t have allotments so we can make stew and dumplings with neeps. So we can keep ourselves in carrots over the winter or be sure there’s always mash on the table. We grow veg for the pleasure of having something tastier, cheaper, more interesting and better quality than you can get in the shops.
The old staples like potatoes, turnips and carrots are twopence-halfpenny in the shops and taste much the same as home grown (apart, of course, from the sweet taste of glory at having nurtured something yourself, but this is, frankly, pretty muted with crops this beige).
This year, I will plant only Hero Harvests: crops that really stand out, grow well and taste better than anything I could buy cheaply and ethically in the shops. No spuds. No onions. A few garlic, but the Natoora ones from Ocado are really stunning and far better than I can grow. I um-ed and argh-ed about leeks, but they do taste so much more leeky when home grown so they can stay. Ditto celeriac.
Instead of the traditional allotment fare, the patch will be a riot of colourful tomatoes, lots of types of lettuce, great swathes of French beans, pretty candied beetroot, mange-tout, edible flowers, huge bunches of basil, oddly shaped courgettes, the sweetest of sweetcorn. It will be fun and beautiful and bounteous. And, most importantly, tasty.
So move over old men. The new guard is here and we’re taking your allotments.
Here’s the patch plan for 2016. The large beds are the grafters up at The Benevolent Farmer Brown’s farm where I grow most of my veg. The smaller beds are the raised ones in my own garden which tend to house the fruit and high maintenance crops. I have tended to over-plan the patch in previous years, so this year, I’m just blocking out the general direction of things and no doubt it will shift as I go. But that’s all part of the new approach – go with what works for your space, not what’s traditionally worked for others.