Thursday, September 22, 2011

A View of the Wargrave Allotments

England is full of castles, assorted ruins, historic sites, cathedrals, museums, churches, and gardens. Not the least of the latter are allotment or community gardens, which I'd begun learning about via Emma Cooper's The Alternative Kitchen Garden and fantastic website. Allotments popped up almost everywhere I went, but opportunities to step inside were rare.

One morning, though, before breakfast and touring I snuck over to one in the village of Wargrave for my own little sight-seeing trip. Established in 1903, this allotments patchwork of flowers and vegetables plots made a feast for the eyes of color and texture, and looked as lovely as any formal garden might. Opening the massive metal gate and venturing up a brick-lined lane an old apple tree stood sentry as much as greeter. The fruit that didn't prove a mild tripping hazard made a tart snack while exploring. A bulletin board sported posters for classes, meetings, and garden workdays along with a stern reminder that taking produce from a garden without permission constituted a criminal offense. Strawberry thieving, while understandable on some level, was also understandably not appreciated.

Purple kale (really a variety of brussel sprouts, I learned from Lane Cottage at the Ludlow Food Festival) along with dinosaur and curly, artichokes, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, winter squash, runner and pole beans, calendula, sunflowers, dahlias galore, assorted fruit trees, raspberry canes, strawberries, and rhubarb were just a few of the lovelies I met with there. Old bathtubs filled with water dotted the landscape at regular intervals as did various kinds of compost bins. Mini-greenhouses and cloches also dotted the landscape now and again, while a few plots had chairs or picnic tables. Judging from the amount of netting (as seen in the above kole crop photo) and scarecrows local birds must be fat as Thanksgiving turkeys from eating so much.

Seeing these vegetables growing was a pleasure, of course, for a gardening geek such as myself, but it was also a reminder of some of my favorites. Japan is home to many a wonderful fruit and vegetable, but root crops can be challenging. Beets, sadly, don't exist in my supermarket nor do parsnips or brussel sprouts. My gracious hosts, incredulous as they were at my request, fulfilled my desire again and again.

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