Gardens: Allotment tales

Those of us trying to persuade the authorities of the wider benefits of allotments often say one plotholder's produce benefits up to 20 others. Having a large family living close by, that is certainly so with me. When they muster at weekends, they usually return home with whatever they can scavenge. Even in midwinter, there are some greens and leeks. Rhubarb and purple sprouting broccoli will be the first of the new season's crops.

The twins, Nicholas and Annabel, are no strangers to the allotment. They have been taken there in their pram since birth. They're now nearly a year old and tucking in to solid food. It won't be long before they can pick their own.

Today's babies seem to have many more and expensive needs than years ago. Where safety is concerned one can't take short cuts. When it comes to packaged baby meals, new parents are drawn to organic ones. While I don't doubt the promises on their labels, they cost much more than something made with home-grown ingredients or even with seasonal vegetables from the greengrocer. My next season's crops will be chosen with baby food in mind.

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I know making individual tiny meals may sound challenging when coping with the demands of babies but they can be cooked in large batches and frozen in portions. So far, the twins' main courses include potatoes, carrots, spinach and courgettes. And once it's mashed up, appearances don't matter, so misshapen carrots and parsnips are used up.

Last year's wonderful harvest means we still have some eating apples in store, which can be cooked without sugar. Sieved soft fruit from the freezer is popular.

It's not only babies that like blender food. Long ago, inspired by cookery writer Elizabeth David, I bought a metal Mouli sieve. It was the forerunner of today's elaborate electric liquidisers and processors. I still use it and wouldn't want to be without it. Apart from being a bit awkwardly shaped to store easily, it comes out time and again for making fruit pures with gooseberries and currants, removing skin, pips, tops and tails in one swift operation. The pure can be frozen and emerge in midwinter as a fool or sauce spiced up with a dash of liqueur for the adults.

• This article was first published in the Scotsman, Saturday February 13, 2010

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