Armstrong Allotments – vegetable auction
It is late summer and time for the Annual Armstrong Allotment vegetable auction. Like a vegetable themed Brigadoon, this is the only day of the year when outsiders can pass beyond the fence and enjoy the beauty of these most impressive allotments.
The vegetable and flower auction is a highlight of the summer for me. I love it! I walk past the site on a regular basis and peep through the fence posts at the verdant valley beyond. It is a bit of a secret garden moment when that gate opens. You are welcomed inside by the friendly allotment holders of Heaton, on that special Saturday afternoon.
Armstong Allotments – judge the veg.
Vegetable competitions happen first, and prizes are awarded. The accolades include Best flower arrangement, best marmalade or jam, best mixed veg platter and of course the ‘Heaviest onion’ category. A comment on its actual weight obviously. Or was it just an exclamation of its street cred? As in ‘Man you are one heavy onion.’
The highlight of the event for me is undoubtedly the excitement of the allotment auction. Huge combination bags of mixed vegetables are sold off. A few years ago you could get boxes of veg for next to nothing, but the locals have cottoned on to this and bidding is much more competitive these days. One lady bought seven giant bags of veg! She either has an incredibly large family or runs a restaurant.
As usual, I got quite carried away but I was prepared and had brought the car to carry all my spoils back to Beatrice Road. I had bought far, far, too many things.
Two giant bags of veg, jewel like tomatoes in red and yellow, sweet corn and potatoes were purchased. I had yellow and striped courgettes, beans, apples and more. I just had to have a huge bunch of Dahlias with their flamboyant heads. Their incredibly intense colours, burgundy, hot pink and zingy orange are such a treat. I bought marmalade, redcurrant jelly, plum jam, rhubarb and orange jam, and pickled beetroot.
I even won the three giant veg winners! I took home the giant marrow, the giant leek and the cabbage as big as a beach ball for £1! No one else wanted them as they were so large and would take too much chopping.
Also sometimes the giant veg lose some of their flavour as a result of their size. I used them for a photo opportunity and for general amusement. I then donated them to a friend who works at a special school where they created much interest among the pupils. The marrow especially caused some giggling.
Why do people grow giant vegetables?
I ask myself, why do people grow giant veg? If you google this question, there are absolutely no results! ‘How to grow giant veg’ yes, or ‘Top tips for growing giant veg’ or Easy steps for growing giant sized vegetables’ but simply no discussion of the motivation behind this activity. I can only assume its the competition element, a powerful motivator for us humans, especially the male of the species. My leeks are bigger than your leeks and so on.
These 69 allotments were land saved from development. These sandy foundations weren’t suitable for building houses on. Lord Armstrong who owned most things in these parts, let the land be used by local people to grow their own food.
There weren’t many people who had gardens in the Heaton area back then. Allotments provide valuable access to green space and a way to get close to nature, as well as providing delicious food and spirit lifting blooms.
Awesome Armstong allotments
Looking after an allotment is hard work and time consuming, but a very rewarding way to spend your spare time. People who have allotments always look rather happy and stress free to me.
These allotments are extremely tidy and well tended. There are mature fruit trees and bushes divide up the plots. They are are surrounded on one side by suburbia and on the other side by trees and parkland.
Along with vegetables many of the allotment holders choose to grow flowers, usually Dahlias or Chrysanthemums. Other blooms like Crocosmia and Sweet Peas bring splashes of multi colours to many of the plots too.
The cafe is open and there are cakes and scones and pies to be had. It is a very civilised afternoon indeed. I better started stewing that rhubarb and steaming that beetroot…