Posts Tagged ‘fresh food’

Guest Blog: Plan Your Polytunnel, and Pay Dividends in Produce

A big welcome to Lucy at the Smallest Smallholding. It is fantastic to see food growing on a small scale with enthusiasm for quality and often unusual food. We need more people like Lucy to get out and about and show how growing food is good for the soul, health, and wealth with our Crop for the Shop scheme. So here’s Lucy:luce_yoko2

Here at The Smallest Smallholding – a domestic, backyard project aimed at living a bit of the good life – we have invested in a modest 10ft polytunnel to not only give our vegetable harvest, a much-needed boost, but to also help create conditions that will allow us to expand on the range of fruit and veggies that we currently grow. For instance, sweet potatoes – commonly important from the USA and farther afield – prefer moist, warm conditions that are difficult at best to replicate outside of a polytunnel in our mild UK climes.

For years, I’ve coveted fruit and veg that thrive in warmer climes– so when our tunnel is finally in action, I’m looking forward to the prospect of adding the likes of sweet potatoes, Italian cucumbers, more peppers and cucurbits to the mix. We also hope to extend our growing season either side of the frosts in early Spring and late Autumn, making us just that little bit more self-sufficient throughout the year.
But thanks for a prolonged period of hot, dry weather, there were a few weeks this year when we were unable to get a fork in the ground. Our sandy soil has a tendency to turn virtually rock-like in such conditions, and so we have faced a delay in getting the polytunnel up over the summer as originally planned. It has, however, given us a little extra time to tweak our plans and do a little bit of research, which will hopefully pay in dividends when it comes to harvesting our polytunnel produce. So here are some simple, rudimentary (but important) tips to consider if you’re thinking of investing in a polytunnel of your own.

Siting Your Polytunnelpolytunnel1

Although preferable, your polytunnel doesn’t have to be sited on flat ground. If being sited lengthways down a slope, as long as the polytunnel hoops are level on both sides and the incline relatively steady, positioning the tunnel down a slope shouldn’t present any problems. If you’re erecting a polytunnel sideways down an incline, then things become a little more complicated and it’s probably best to opt for some professional advice ( have a wealth of knowledge about such things!).

Next, it’s time to think about orientation. East to west offers exposure to sunlight all day – great if you want to grow veg that requires the same conditions all year round, as the temperature inside the polytunnel tends to stay more even throughout the day. However, if you want to grow a variety of fruit and veg with differing growing preferences, you can opt for a north-south positioning on your plot, as the northern end will offer cooler conditions, with the southern end warming up much more.

You should also think about the strength and direction of prevailing winds – we are lucky in that our patch is enclosed by fencing, and various types of hedging, so strong gusts of wind aren’t an issue. But in more open spaces, it’s best to locate your polytunnel closer to hedges and natural wind breaks (with at least 3ft clearance either side), to prevent any damage from stronger winds. However, bear in mind that it’s not ideal to site your polytunnel close to overhanging tree branches, especially those that drop their leaves. This is because the leafmould, sap and honeydew from insects feeding on the trees can cause all kinds of problems and mess with the polytunnel cover, causing you more work in the long run!polytunnel4

Lastly, consider how your polytunnel will be fixed; with foundation tubes on softer ground, you can opt for anchor plates, which need to be dug into the ground before construction begins. On hard ground, the foundation tubes can be fixed and bolted directly to the hard surface. If space is an issue, then base rails will be a necessity, as they won’t require a trench to be dug out around the perimeter of the polytunnel to secure the cover.

Take all the above into consideration before you get building, and the chances are that you’ll face a much smoother construction process… at least, that’s the theory!

Polytunnel photos complements:©


Strawberry season, at last!

imgres At last the sun is out and the luscious red fruit is ready. To buy and eat, pick your own, or, grow your own. Like nearly all fruit the freshest, ripest, strawberries are the best, and rarely found in the supermarket where shelf life is more important than taste. So here are a few strawberry facts.

Strawberries are the first fruit to ripen in the spring

Most supermarket strawberries are the El Santa variety specially bred to be picked before ripe and last a long time on the shelf.

Roughly 27,000 kilos of strawberries are eaten during the Wimbledon Championshipsimages

Wimbledon may have 64 player, seeds, in the competition, there are about 200 seeds on every strawberry?

Strawberries are the only fruit with seeds on the outside

A 100g serving of strawberries contains just 50 calories – 0g of fat!

Strawberries can help whiten your teeth? The acids in the fruit help to remove stains.

The BigBarn local food map

The BigBarn local food map

They are full of a special substance called ellagic acid which can help fight cancers.

Also full of flavonoids, which form part of the strawberry’s red colour. They are known to help reduce cholesterol from clogging up the heart’s arteries.

Eight strawberries have more vitamin C than an orange, 140% of our daily recommended amount.

Strawberries can also be white or yellow and some can even taste like pineapples.

The strawberry and raspberry plants, are members of the rose family.
Eating strawberries, which are rich in nitrate, can increase the flow of blood & oxygen to the muscles by 7%. This prevents muscle fatigue, making exercise easier.

Over 53 percent of seven to nine-year-olds picked strawberries as their favorite fruit.

Some fantastic reasons to enjoy strawberries this summer. Find your local producers and Pick Your Owns using our local food map, or some plants to grow and produce fruit every year.

New BigBarn ‘About us’ video

Here is our new ‘About us’ video to explain why we exist, what we believe, do, and why.

Our ‘Mission’ in modern business language.

We are often told that there is too much on our home page, our banner does not say what we do, our map is complicated and our blogs too controversial. So we will be making some changes, and as you are part of our community (you can read more about this here), we welcome your feedback below or to

Are we too late to help local producers and retailers?

Have we all become too addicted to the supermarket? Loyalty schemes, special offers, convenience, and perception of value?

What would make people change? Cost, convenience, quality, responsibility to community?

To encourage change: Our ‘£’ flag on icon shows hundreds of farm shops, butchers, etc on BigBarn are cheaper than the supermarket, do you believe that?

A video flag helps producers tell their story and show what is different and special about them.

People can make money from growing your own with our Crop for the Shop initiative.

Is this enough to encourage more people to switch to buying their weekly food needs locally? And leaving the other goods for the supermarket, once a month?

Your feedback is welcome. And please send this to your friends.

We, must, must, must, take kids blackberry picking!

This time of year is fantastic for one of the most nutritious, tasty, seasonal, fruits, and they are FREE! Blackberries.

Not only are they so good, but a brilliant way to get kids eating real fresh food, often leading to an interest in other fruit and veg.

Blackberries seem to be everywhere this year and our network of byroads and footpaths allow most people to find and eat a good snack, as well as take some home for a pie or pudding.

Kids love hunting for a prize and a tasty, healthy, snack that could lead to a love of fresh food should be a responsibility we all enjoy. So take the kids out this weekend for a blackberry hunt. Do however leave the ones at the bottom of the hedge that might taste of labrador pee!

The Men who made us FAT; Wake up everybody, switch to local food!!

If you didn’t watch this TV series this is great, and healthy, viewing. It may be painful, and cause a few family arguments, as you change what you buy for the kids, but could also save their lives!

We must stop our intake of corn syrup from fizzy drinks, ready meals, sauces and fast foods. It is difficult to resist all those adverts constantly telling us to buy all kinds of delicious looking foods, so we must be strong.

Then again, resisting, will result in a better, healthier, diet and make us feel better and live longer!

To help resist switch from the supermarket and all those tempting special offers on foods that will kill you. To buying local, fresh, seasonal foods, free from corn syrup and other additives.

Use our local food map and KIS (Keep it Simple) cookery video channel for ways to make fresh food in to delicious meals.

The future for food? Urban and local growing?

With the seas overfished and commercial farming becoming over reliant on fossil fuels, urban and local food production is making the news. Perhaps we should shout louder about BigBarn’s Crop for the Shop initiative.

There was a very interesting article in the Guardian about roof top and car park fish farming in Germany where the waste from the fish is used in hydroponics to fertilize plants such as tomatoes.

Photo: Courtesy of the Nanluoguxiang community.

And in China The Beijing Agricultural Bureau is trying to encourage the cultivation of mini-farms on balconies and in yards by offering residents free seeds and farming equipment. “Growing one’s own greens can help to reduce carbon emissions, clean the air and release stress.”

The Transition movement have been campaigning for years about oil running out, and that we must change to thinking about growing food instead of prickly bushes and shrubs. Why don’t landscapers’ plant fruit and nut trees instead of ‘squirrel food’ trees.

At BigBarn we have our Crop for The Shop campaign encouraging people to grow food and sell any excess through local retailers marked with a rosette on our map. This gives some retailers, not big enough to buy fresh from a wholesaler, the chance to stock enough produce to attract local customers and become the hub for local fresh food.

It also means that, in these austere times, some people can save on buying food and earn on any excess produce. Even more important kids can get involved and eat healthy fruit and veg.

So look out for dead shrubs and a bit of space in your garden, or balcony, and get growing some food. Plant some fruit and nut trees this autumn and see the benefits for years to come.

Crazy and Confused priorities of modern life prove we need to change

In the last 100 years we have seen amazing changes in the food industry. We can now go to a big shop and get everything we need, and as a percentage of our income, food is cheap. But what are the consequences? Should we make changes, and how? First, here are some pretty crazy facts.

We live in a country where we have 1,000+ varieties of apple, yet two thirds of the apples consumed are imported

Farmers only get an average of 9p in every £1 spent on food in a supermarket.

Many children do not know where their food comes from, are obese and only eat salty ready meals.

There has been a 50 per cent increase in diabetes in the UK in the last five years.

Milk is cheaper than water in some shops and the number of UK dairy farmers has halved in the last 10 years

Some people are happy to pay 75p for a ready made baked potato when they could put a fresh one in the oven for 5p

Non-organic food is subsidised by the taxpayer making organic food much more expensive

We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons.

30% of road freight is food related.

The same percentage of food is wasted including 190,000 granny Smith apples per year.

40% of the worlds grain production is fed to animals and if trends continue could feed half the estimated worlds population by 2050.

GM crops are growing all over the world and promoted by profit focused corporates.

If these trends continue what is the world going to look like. Will kids only eat ready meals and the majority of any fruit and veg consumed be imported? Will all our milk and meat come from vast factory farms? How long before someone makes a mistake transferring the wrong gene in to a food crop?

If the above is not scary enough perhaps we need another food scare to encourage change.

Change away from a commodity food chain to a local supply chain, where local producers are reconnected with consumers to trade and communicate.

Where food is produced, consumed and enjoyed with the seasons. (Excess apples are juiced or made in to cider). Farmers get a better price, are encouraged to grow more food crops and employ local people. Kids find out about food and encouraged to grow, and trade, their own. And there is no need for engineered crops owned by profit focused corporates.

So we, the masses, need to take action and change. Not hard change but easy change. To buying local, where food is fresher and often, cheaper, without retailer and middle men margins.

An easy change in attitude, to enjoy cooking fresh ingredients, with the whole family, instead of Mum having the ‘chore’ of cooking for fusspots. To growing and trading our own and joining in with community food events, like the Jubilee, big lunch, apple day, etc.

BigBarn is here to help and please tell your friends. To read more about building a local food industry by click here