Value-added crops

There’s a debate that is held over allotment fences and in sheds, usually amiable but sometimes rather heated – it’s about what it’s ‘worth’ growing. Is it worth growing potatoes? Is it worth growing carrots? Is it worth growing onions?

The argument on the one hand is that these staple crops can be so cheap to buy that once you factor in all your costs, it may be more expensive to grow them. Those costs aren’t just the seed you buy and the allotment rental, but also the hours you put into cultivating the crop, any fertilizer or pesticide you have to buy to keep your crop safe from predators and pests, any tools or supplies you need to purchase to tend and harvest your crop, the cost of transport, the cost of cleaning your crop and the cost of storing it.

On the other hand, the argument that most of us would make is that flavour and provenance are all important. Not only does home-grown food taste so much better, the grower has confidence that no unpleasant pesticides or herbicides have been applied and that the crop hasn’t been in cold storage for months, or washed in chlorine solution, or treated with a retardant to stop it ripening …

And home-grown carrots are lovely, because you can lift them when the are small and sweet and dense with flavour, and they are as sweet as a fruit. No need to cook them, just wash and eat!

What’s your favourite value-added crop?

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Posted by The Allotment Blogger on Tuesday, September 16, 2008


Blogger Amy said...

Courgettes have to be top of the list just because of the shear quantity. But I think this year's winner is going to be the crown prince squash - pretty expensive at £2 for 4 seeds but I have at least 8 squash ripening up so i will be saving plenty of seed for next year.

September 21, 2008 at 12:26 PM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Eight squash from 4 seeds is a good ratio, and as you say, you can save loads of seeds. Do you have a seed swap near you? It's often called Seedy Sunday and ours takes place in February, you go along with seeds you want to swap and pick up seeds you fancy growing - brilliant idea!

September 28, 2008 at 1:29 PM  
Anonymous Linda said...

Spinach, I think. I was going to say 'strawberries', but I was amazed at the difference between just-picked home-grown spinach and the tired, flat, dusty supermarket offerings. Unfortunately our second, summer sowing of spinach didn't come to anything at all, so we're left with the memory of shiny, juicy spinach in June.

October 1, 2008 at 12:13 PM  
Blogger The Allotment Blogger said...

Spinach can be great when it's really young and really fresh. I'm surprised you got nothing off a second sowing, but we've learned a wizard wheeze for 'winter spinach' which is to grow ruby chard and just pop an upturned plastic bucket over the plant about two days before we want to eat the leaves, then we strip out the ribs (which a lot of people think are the best bit, but not yours truly) and stir fry the remaining greens. The lack of light for two days or so seems to just soften the leaves so that they are as tender as spinach and the chard will happily cope with winter weather ...

October 2, 2008 at 8:37 AM  

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