There’s a few things I’ve learned about gardeners since we’ve had a plot. They’re unbelievably generous with their time, knowledge, seeds, plants and produce, and they’re not keen on waste of any kind.
We’ve experienced this generosity ourselves as at least three of our beds are planted solely from gifts and surplus from other gardeners. We’ve Jerusalem artichokes, two varieties of onions, potatoes, broccoli, parsnips, swedes, spinach, cardoons, tomatoes, strawberries and gourds. We’ve inherited a rosemary bush, chives and Russian comfrey, and the offer of fruit canes at the end of the season – all in less than four months of having a plot. And it’s not just plants, seeds and tubers we’ve been lucky enough to receive. We’ve wood from old beds and borders, a rickety, partially glazed greenhouse, and produce is given just as freely. It comes as second nature to share your harvests when there’s more than meets your own needs.
A simple “hello” found me in possession of rhubarb; giving cabbage and cauliflower seedlings to someone who’d lost theirs to rabbits resulted in a cucumber haul; twice this week I’ve left the allotments with gifts of sweet peas, and last night we came home with kale and courgettes.
But an encounter with a fellow plot holder yesterday left me wondering about all the extra produce – the items that end up on the compost heap because there’s still surplus after we’ve given as much as we can to friends, family and neighbours. The guy I spoke to recently had to rely on the local food bank and wanted to do something to help in return. He’s established an on site collection box for people to donate their excess produce. I thought this a wonderful idea, but researching the local food bank shows it can’t always take perishable goods.
A quick Internet search revealed that other food charities are also in need of donations. The majority of food distribution schemes cater for wholesale and shop surplus, but I did find:
Foodshare a volunteer led, not for profit, charitable organisation originally established by allotmenteers to distribute surplus produce to local charities.
Foodcycle a charity that runs community projects in England to serve meals to those in need.
And of course, there’s always a number of soup kitchens and other local charities that would greatly appreciate donations from local plot holders. It doesn’t hurt to ask around.
That glut of courgettes needn’t go to waste.