Categories
Allotment Diary

What to grow in Brexit Britain

The weather is absolutely freezing at the moment and it means that not a lot can be done outside… And this has got me thinking about the future.

The time that the latest lockdown brings and rumblings of things changing in the shops due to Brexit, has led me to ask myself – what should I be growing now that the UK is out of the EU.

It’s no secret that gaps are starting to appear on shelves down the fresh fruit isles, due not only to new Brexit importing rules, but also the strain covid-19 has put on staff shortages at food producers.

So let’s try and answer the question – What should I be growing in Brexit Britain.

Let’s start with some cold hard facts to help decide:

  • Approximately 30% of food in the UK arrives from the EU, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC)
  • Around 50% of fresh fruit and veg in the UK, comes from the EU and most of that consists of fruit
  • Generally speaking, imports and exports of produce can fluctuate dramatically, based on season. For instance, during the summer months, the UK produces 95% of its own salad leaves. In the winter months, the UK can only rely on 10% – the rest has to be imported in
  • Since 2016, imports of fresh fruit and veg from the EU has been in decline overall – but the produce that the UK makes itself is at around 60%

So, of the produce seen on our supermarket shelves, how much of it approximately is imported in from the EU, produced in the UK and imported in from outside of the EU…

Produce most commonly
found on our
supermarket shelves
Imported in
from the EU
(%)
Produced in
the UK
(%)
Imported in
from outside of the EU
(%)
Spinach99%0%1%
Artichokes 98%0%2%
Aubergines 93%0%7%
Chillies and peppers84%11%6%
Tomatoes 21%70%9%
Cucumbers 71%28%1%
Lettuce58%42%0%
Mushrooms52%48%0%
Squash and pumpkins77%0%23%
Lemons and limes62%0%38%
Tangerines and satsumas0%55%45%
Cauliflower and broccoli 43%56%1%
Cabbages13%87%0%
Onions17%82%1%
Apples28%53%19%
Potatoes2%97%1%
Potatoes (non-frozen)0%99%1%
Sweet potatoes21%0%79%
Carrots and turnips4%95%1%
Peas3%90%6%
Leeks19%79%1%
Strawberries28%69%3%
Melons43%0%57%
Grapes33%0%67%
Green beans15%28%57%
Asparagas 10%29%61%
Plums49%19%32%
Oranges45%0%55%
Bananas10%0%90%
Blueberries92%0%8%
Pears74%15%11%
Cherries58%21%21%
Compiled from https://www.theguardian.com/politics/ng-interactive/2019/aug/13/how-a-no-deal-brexit-threatens-your-weekly-food-shop – Aug 2019

The above statistics are obviously subject to change as things unfold – but I think it’s a good start in knowing where our food is coming from predominantly.

What to grow in Brexit Britain

If rising prices and/or low availability due to how the UK imports goods from the EU is a concern, you’d do right to grow the items that are imported the most (70% or higher), from the get go.

  • Spinach
  • Artichokes
  • Aubergines
  • Chillies and peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Squashes
  • Pears
  • Blueberries

The winter months, for the UK is the time where prices and availability are more likely to be affected, so ideally (and if possible) in the winter it would be good to grow your own salad items, mainly tomatoes and lettuce. Perfect if you’ve got a polytunnel.

Soft fruits (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries..etc) are imported during the winter months. With that in mind, it would be a good idea to freeze and store these as they’re ripening in the summer months. Spinach, squash and pumpkins also have the potential to be frozen or stored.

Root veg and brassicas seem to grow well in the UK – so I’m not sure if I should worry too much about those. This is with the exception of frozen potatoes (chips, waffles, frozen roast potatoes…etc) of which 0% is created in the UK

As mentioned previously, times at when items are imported can change with the seasons, and the BBC made this helpful infographic below to show what is imported and when.

Carrying out research for this post and trying to find out when the UK conducts its imports, has led me to some very interesting materials online.

I’ve also identified numerous variables to take into account in all of this, which may or may not come to pass as time goes on.

The UK will no doubt be looking toward other places to trade with and import produce from – although this can take time to materialise.

I suspect (and would like to think) that the UK will also adapt, with UK suppliers looking to grow out of season produce domestically. Growing your own and gardening has also seen an uptick in interest in the past 12 months or so.

Lastly, Brexit is still relatively fresh and so the way in which things are actually conducted at various borders are still being worked out. Hopefully, as efficiency improves, so will the cost and availability of produce.

Having researched this topic, it makes me ponder – should I grow the usual fare? Should I be growing things that I like? Should I be growing things that provide good yields and can be stored, regardless of world events? Should I be growing things that will either be hard to come by or may become too expensive?

Or – should I just not give this all a second thought? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Allotment Diary

Autumn Allotmenting

Everywhere you look, the temperature is falling, the leaves are changing colour and the allotment is no different.

Visits to and from allotment really do dwindle heading into the autumn and winter, so as the darker evenings move on in, the allotment really does offer a great place to walk to stretch legs and get a breath of fresh air.

Time there at the weekends is also more treasured, probably now this year than in the summer – mainly because we can’t do much else, for obvious reasons at the moment.

On first glance, a good majority of beds are covered and so it looks like not a lot is happening – however, if you look closely, it’s quite the contrary.

Strawberries

These strawberry plants were gifted to us by some very dear friends, and they have taken root superbly – and the fruits taste fantastic. These were planted into some raised beds which were made up of predominantly leaf mould. You can see how I made these raised beds here. I’ve managed to cultivate some more strawberry plants from these and I can’t wait to pick some more in the spring.

Brussels sprouts

Brussels sprouts often feel like they take such a long time to grow, baring in mind that I first sowed these seeds back in April – so you can imagine how satisfying it must be to see actual Brussels sprouts on the stem. They are being eaten by slugs and they’ve been congregating on the heads of the plant, so I really do need to address that. The sprouts reside in a brassica cage,

Last of the fruits

A good 50% of the plot is made up fruits and this is a great tactic with helping keeping on top things, mainly because the fruits look after themselves. The autumn raspberries have done really well and I’ve decided to not prune these like I did this time last year. Instead, I’ll be pruning these in the early spring. The Spring raspberries have not done that well – and I need to find out why. The rhubarb winding down now, and these generated a plentiful outcome. The blackberries… have served their time. They’re very lovely, but their pruning has become (and excuse the pun) a bind. New plans await for these – stay tuned!

This year I grew King Edward potatoes, which I’ve grown before once upon a time…

These were the only potatoes I grew this year. I usually do first early potatoes and mains, but this year I just grew mains.

I’ve been happy with the spud outcome this year, in the fact that I’ve ended up with more than I started with – but it’s worth noting that the jacket potato style spud has been far and few between, but I’ll be honest, I’m fine with that.

They’ve still been great for mashing and roasting 🙂

I’ve still got some potatoes to dig up, but in the meantime I’m storing them in the ground for… even more rainy days.

How is your autumn going so far? I’d love to know in the comments below! (Also, I’ve given the blog a new look – I’d love to know your thoughts on that as well 🙂 )

Categories
Tomato

Tomatoes: Homegrown vs. Store-bought

There’s always that old adage that reads, homegrown is better than shop bought. So for a bit of fun, I thought I’d do a taste test between homegrown cherry and plum tomatoes versus shop bought cherry and plum tomatoes, and see how they compare in real time.

For this I brought in the camera lady, because I’m clearly over biased towards my very own homegrown produce.

The plum tomatoes and cherry tomatoes are of no particular variety – when I purchased the seeds, I literally went into Wilkinsons and picked up a packet of each. I wasn’t too focused on variety this year because it’s been a good couple of years since I’ve grown produce properly.

So how do the two compare?

Homegrown

  • The cherry tomatoes have a nice full smell, and it really stands out.
  • These tomatoes look a bit more pale in comparison.
  • The cherry tomatoes are rich, have flavoursome taste and they taste like cherry tomatoes.
  • The plum tomatoes taste ripe, the flesh is full and if feels like there’s a lot there.
  • The smell and taste go together with this set of tomatoes, even if they don’t look as nice or as perfect as the shop bought tomatoes.

Store-bought

  • Not that much of a smell in comparison. There’s no tomato smell that you would normally have.
  • These look more appealing, the colour is fully and more red.
  • The cherry tomatoes are sweet, but they’re a little bit on the watery side.
  • The plum tomatoes don’t look as ripe, and they look watery, a bit more pale.
  • The plum tomatoes would need seasoning, like salt to make it taste like a tomato.

Of course, in this particular instance, there’s no comparison between the two – the homegrown tomatoes, although don’t look as appealing, triumph because of their superior flavour, texture and smell.

What varieties of tomatoes have you grown this year and what would you recommend over shop-bought tomatoes? I’d love to know in the comments below 🙂

Categories
Allotment Diary

Separating seedlings

Much like sowing seeds, separating seedlings is more or less the same from plant to plant…

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Autumn Bliss Malling Promise Raspberries

Pruning Raspberry plants

Autumn is well and truly here, and it’s time to clear the decks for the winter days that sit on the horizon.

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Allotment Diary Victory Garden

Will Brexit boost an interest in Growing your own?

I’ve tried my best to not mention the B word on this blog for as long as I can, however, I’ve been going through my stats and I’ve noticed something rather interesting…