In the U.K., allotments—community gardens—are trendy.
An allotment is a piece of land owned by local government and rented out at a nominal annual sum to local residents so they can grow fruits, vegetables, and flowers. The allotment system began in the 18th century, and over the years, allotments have waxed and waned in popularity. During World War II, the “Dig for Victory”campaign encouraged interest in allotments and provided an important supplementary source of food for Britons living with food rationing. (For example, 4 oz butter, 2 oz cheese, and 1 egg per person per week, and similar rationing of meat, milk, and other staples—interesting to note, for those of us who eat far more, rationing improved the nation’s health.) People continued to cultivate allotments for a while after the war, but by the sixties and seventies, many allotments had been abandoned and were overgrown.
Gradually, in the nineties, interest awakened, and now many people—including D., the friend I stayed with in London—have taken up allotment gardening. I helped D. pick, and later enjoyed, redcurrants, raspberries, spinach, snow peas/mange-tout, and courgettes. There’s much more to come, but alas, I won’t be there to enjoy it.
I asked the purpose of the jars and things atop the stakes, expecting something very scientific. The answer, however, was pragmatic: “So that you don’t lurch into them and poke your eye out,” said D.