On a blustery and fresh morning I met John McKinlay to be shown around the Craigentinny allotments site, as research for an article I was writing for a university assignment. The article was about healthy living and, having parents who are keen allotment holders, I had already seen the benefits first hand of having your own plot of land to nurture and grow your own fruit and vegetables on.
John kindly showed me around the site, telling me all about the history of the site, about its up-keep and the challenges of keeping an allotment site in good condition and everyone adhering to the site rules. As we walked down the path we saw a fox having a look around the plots, and despite the fact that no-one else was actually on the site when I was there, I could still tell that there is a strong sense of community and goodwill amongst the Craigentinny plot holders.
When we arrived back at John’s plot, he told me all about crop rotations and his most successful and favourite crops. Then it was time for me to get my fingers somewhat dirty, as I sowed Broad Bean seeds into small pots, about 15 in total. After we transferred these into a cleverly built area where they would be protected from the elements, it was time to mix up some compost and seaweed from Portobello beach, to help along the Asparagus plants. John explained to me the wonders of compost and how to make it good, healthy and nutritious for the plants. Whilst John and I blended the seaweed with the compost we could smell the salt from the sea, we then shovelled it onto the raised Asparagus bed and spread it out to cover the whole area.
I asked John about how many hours he puts in to his allotment and he said it needed at least seven hours a week in summer. The dedication he and his wife really shows through when the plot is looking at its best, something which has been recognised by the Edinburgh In Bloom competition after they won first prize in the Allotment Plot category in 2009.
I am sure that all their hard work is worth it when they can pick delicious fresh raspberries and eat them straight away or turn them into scrumptious jam. I wanted to know about the health benefits of having an allotment, other than eating fresh fruit and vegetables which are 100% organic. It soon dawned on me that the effort and work which is put into keeping an allotment in a state where it can produce crops all year, must also keep the plot holder fit. Those seven hours a week of digging, shovelling, wheeling, carrying and planting is more exercise than the Government recommends the average person has, and I for one think that that this can only be a good thing.
John and I had a nibble of some Pak Choi which I had never tasted before; I was pleasantly surprised by its earthy, fresh and oriental taste. John was kind enough to pack a bag full of vegetables for me to take home – a few Potatoes, some Pak Choi, and a little Chard were all used to make myself some healthy and delicious suppers.
Thanks to John for showing me around the site and letting me help him with some of the jobs on his plot, it was really useful for my article and also very enjoyable.
By Frances Allan