French allotments encore!

Okay, so what do the French think of British allotments? They think we are very poor gardeners! Seriously, my afternoon talking to the veg growers of the Aude region produced the information that the British not only can’t cook, they can’t grow either. The elderly ladies and gents who told me this had three pieces of evidence for their beliefs:

• The British who live in France buy their seeds in supermarkets instead of saving them from the previous year’s crop
• They dig up small family vineyards and lay grass for their children and dogs to play on
• They turn root cellars into games rooms, under-house garages or bathrooms.

I found it very difficult to argue with any of this! I’ve no doubt that most Brits in France don’t buy ALL their seeds in supermarkets but do a lot of purchasing by mail order (as I had a packet of pepper seeds from the Carrefour supermarket in my bag at that very moment I felt rather guilty, but hey, they were half the price of the same seed in England!), and I’m absolutely certain that most of us, presented with a vineyard the size of a tablecloth and a complex set of rules for cooperative wine production, would prefer a bit of lawn. Equally, unless you know what a root cellar is, you probably do think it’s a dark bit of wasted space in your newly purchased home.

But I don’t think we’re as bad as we’re painted. I argued that everybody I could see in the jardins ouvriers was at least seventy, while on my allotment site we had vegetable growers in their early twenties, their thirties, forties and fifties too, not just retired folk. I explained that perhaps French allotment holders would find our system complicated to understand and opt for growing what they were used to at home, rather than parsnips and other British favourites. I don’t think I convinced anyone, but it was a fascinating discussion, the outcome of which was to persuade me that this year, to keep faith with the French, I must harvest my own seed for next year …

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Tuesday, August 26, 2008

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