Thursday, April 17, 2014

What a Waste

I don’t know why I’m surprised that BBC2’s The Big Allotment Challenge was a big pile of stinking manure. After all, this is the broadcaster that has put competitive misery into making cakes and cooking dinner with the stressful The Great British Bake-Off and the dour MasterChef; but I thought allotments had moved on from the image of an old boy in his cycle clips gazing anxiously and admiringly at his highly polished giant onions ahead of the village show. However, halfway through Tuesday night’s programme, I stopped watching after the allotmenteers’ radishes were judged on their shape, perfection and uniformity. The judges didn’t even taste them – and this a salad vegetable that you eat raw.

I have blogged before about the forward-thinking site where I have my plot and how it is important as a source of food and community. There are annual prizes for the best-kept plots, to encourage people to keep on top of their allotments, but there are no competitions for the biggest or most pristine produce to intimidate beginners, or those who simply want to get cheap food out of the ground. Although plots are rented from the parish council, the day-to-day management of communal areas and the organising of community events are carried out by members of the allotment association.

The worst thing about The Big Allotment Challenge is that, in a contradictory age of food poverty and food waste, it perpetuates myths that growing food is difficult because it has to look perfect. Growing radishes is the simplest thing: throw some seeds on the earth, lightly cover them with soil and a few weeks later, tasty radishes. Supermarkets and growers waste tons of food every year because of their perception of the superficial demands of the customer. A programme like this should have been an opportunity to show that growing food is easy and inclusive. Sadly, that opportunity has been wasted too.

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