The Big Allotment Challenge – what a load of manure.

OK, I get that the clue is in the title. It’s The Big Allotment Challenge.  Not the Big Allotment Survival Guide. Though a few more tips on how to actually grow your own produce would have been nice.

But surely, a competition about allotments, should actually be about allotments – about digging, weeding, watering, sowing, planting, weeding, watering and finally, eating.  It should be about the joy, pain, patience, perseverance and huge rewards that come with tending a plot of land and growing your own food.

In two episodes of The Big Allotment Challenge, I’ve barely seen a pair of wellies, let alone a garden fork. Though I have seen some very well-dressed gardeners and some impossibly manicured nails.

The thing that irritates me about this programme is the pre-occupation with ‘best in show.’  Pleeease, there are better uses of an allotment than ironing runner beans, or whatever they do to make them straight. Since when did straight runner beans taste better than wonky ones? Since when did they constitute a more superior contribution to one of five a day.

Unfortunately, flowers in the programme fare just as badly. Anything which doesn’t meet the designated strictures of beauty (women who aren’t a perfect size 10 may relate) is deemed unacceptable.  Don’t get me wrong, I love flowers and I love growing them.  Flowers  without doubt make the world a better place – peace, love, joy and pollination and all that. I’ve just never seen the need to tame and train them to within a leaf of their lives, until even the bees barely recognise them.

Then there’s the ‘eat’ section of the programme, where allotmenteers have to concoct something edible from their own produce. So far we’ve had jams, curds, chutney, relishes and sauces.  Nothing inherently wrong with any of those, if you can be arsed. But what’s the point of growing your own food if all you do with it is make meal accessories, rather than actual meals? I want to see how an allotment can provide sustenance,  not just stuff that comes off a teaspoon.

Surely an allotment challenge should be about self-sufficiency and doing away with homogenous supermarket veg.  Instead, The Big Allotment Challenge is about jumping on the ‘bake-off’ bandwagon, albeit with a home-grown twist while trying to replicate the style of veg usually found in shrinkwrap.

For me, the challenge of having an allotment is not about measuring beans, taming flowers, or pissing about with gingham covered jam jars. For me, the challenge of having an allotment is about feeding a family.  Which is why I would probably have been sent off in the first episode.

In case you haven’t seen it, The Big Allotment Challenge is on BBC2 on Tuesdays at 8pm.

About Becky Dickinson

Mum of three. Writer, blogger, grower. Trying to keep my head above the compost heap.

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Comments

  1. Completely agree. Should be titled the big gardening challenge because to me an allotment is all about tackling the overgrown jungle you start off with, keeping on top of the weeds and the knowledge that what you are growing doesn’t have to be uniform in shape size etc. I’ve certainly never visited my allotment in anything other than old clothes. Certainly not a shirt or dress! I just want to give them all a slap especially that awful pickle woman. I was hoping for some burn your mouth out for several hours pickle last night so she couldn’t speak.

  2. Sandra Blair says:

    I agree to a degree!! I think it is aimed at people considering an allotment not necessarily those already growing both vegetables and flowers. It is an eclectic group of individuals – I have to admire the fancy nails as I can never aspire to these from February to October!!! And actually I particularly enjoy the eat part! I usually have a glut of something or other and naturally freeze the lot but I found real inspiration in some of the sauces and chutneys and especially the fancy jams produced the other week. I agree the focus on perfect veg is not necessary but I for one(?) will continue watching not to find out who wins but for the inspiration the programme offers and I also really like Fern Brittan!!!! Is that her name?

  3. I agree totally. Do all of the contestants have an allotment as I am sure I heard one say that he had never grown runner beans! Surely a must on any plot and as for producing fruit in a few months that normally takes a couple of years, I am lost for words.

    • tbh I’ve never grown runner beans either but I do grow other climbing beans like cobra and blue lake and I’m pretty sure you give them the same treatment as runners (I just prefer the more tender varieties.) Maybe they’re all just exceptionally green fingered (or a little help behind the scenes!)

  4. Hear, hear. It’s quite something to watch for a whole hour and learn almost nothing. How do they do it?! An opportunity missed I think.

  5. Angela Stewart-Hughes says:

    I agree with the previous comments but strangely I am drawn back to watching it each week. Hopefully if enough people watch and give constructive feedback we may end up with a more appropriate and informative programme that all of us allotment addicts would enjoy!
    Bring on Series 2!

    • I agree Angela. I’d like to watch a programme where they follow a group of new allotment holders as they take on real plots, to see the struggles and successes they come up against, and who grows and who goes.

  6. I agree with you….but still really enjoyed it. I’m actually dissapointed that there were only six episodes.

    I am fairly new to growing my own and I would have liked to have seen more tips on growing some of the things… but still, I enjoyed watching it :o)

  7. I agree wholeheartedly with all your comments. I originally was excited by the prospect of an allotment based programme when I first heard about it but after watching it I felt deflated. The contest was based around a village fate and flower show which annoy me anyway for the simple reason that the best grown vegetable is the tastiest one not the best looking one. A carrot grown to look good just looks the same as the rest once it’s chopped up and cooked.

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  1. […] you’ve got your plot, or your patch, or even a few pots. But having watched The Big Allotment Challenge, you still don’t have a clue what to grow, or how to grow […]

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