A daily trip to the plot during the darkest months of the year seems almost more important than in the summer, even if I only return with a few salad leaves and cold fingers.
At Christmas, it’s a wonderful antidote to over-indulgence and lack of fresh air, coupled with the after-effects of last-minute shopping.
A deep freeze is a wonderful way of preserving some of the summer surpluses. Runner beans and brambles were particularly plentiful this year. However, at Christmas I consider it a point of honour to put fresh seasonal vegetables on the table. My friend Ingrid goes one better and always manages to pick some homegrown flowers for her table, too. While many people will be doing battle in the supermarket for some over-priced and over-packaged produce, I am more likely to be swilling mud off recently dug vegetables in an old tin bucket.
There is simply no comparison between the taste of my allotment vegetables and what is available in the shops. If you are not lucky enough to have an allotment, a local greengrocer or farmers’ market is a reasonable second best. Flavour has a lot to do with the length of time from plot to plate. I guarantee that if you buy dirty carrots they will taste better than pre-washed ones.
Last May I was given some swede seedlings left over from a plant sale. I planted them out without much enthusiasm and they flourished to perfection. I am ashamed at how ungrateful I was for the gift at the time. They have turned out to be quite different from the rock-hard specimens I have occasionally bought from the shops. The first ones were pulled up by my twin grandchildren reenacting the story of The Enormous Turnip and I have been enjoying them ever since.
There’s something very special about going to the allotment on Christmas Day. Whatever the weather, it will be a contrast to activities going on back home. It’ll be quiet but I doubt if I’ll be on my own. Taking a stroll up and down the site, it is easy to see contrasting styles of gardening at this time of year. Some plotholders will have cleared their plots and dug them over. Plots like mine are still very much work in progress, so I am hoping for some reasonable weather to get things into shape for spring.