Crops for the Second Summer: The Wartime Garden

Sometimes a vegetable that we take for granted can reveal a little about our social past. In 1940, Saddleworth Allotments Fertility Association produced half a ton of first class seed potatoes. You may think that seems a small amount but most of these seed potatoes would have been sent across Britain until there was a little bit of Saddleworth growing in the ground near you. We remember a time when our parents spoke about spuds in terms of 'those are old potatoes' and 'no point getting spuds until the new ones come in'. Our Mothers would blame poor spud turnout in pies, hashes and chips on the fact the potatoes were 'last years'. Then things started to change and our spuds went from unwashed to washed, to bagged in plastic and the origins of them got further and further afield. The spuds of our childhood do not taste like the spuds we bought in our twenties. Something was lost in favour of uniformity and resistance to blight, blackleg and wireworm. Our memories betrayed us and many of us forgot were potatoes came from.

Why potatoes should never be taken for granted.

Last year we turned to heritage varieties and new cultivars owing their taste to varieties from the pre-war era. This year we have saved some seed and we have bought some. They are now in our kitchen, four different varieties that we will reveal when we plant - we have plans to bring in our front garden and the lower half of our back garden into our Wartime Garden. Rather than turn our back on the Wartime Garden we are continuing, learning and adapting, bringing some ideas and ways of planting up to date. We want to maximise crops in small areas, create a cycle of recycling from the home to the garden, from compost to feed for chickens (we will be bringing these into the garden this year for meat and eggs), from wood ash to food feed. You can see our journey through last year below.

You can view more on our #wartimegarden plans on twitter and through the following links:

Wartime Garden: Harvest Festival

Digging for Victory: The Guardian Blog