Wednesday, 5 November 2008
Edinburgh food miles
When I’m at home there’s chard (well, mostly just chard) less than two metres from our kitchen table. So how can cities that seem even less green than London shorten the distances food is transported from farm to plate? This post is from Nicola Baird.
Around Edinburgh the food is good. We’ve had pumpkin broth, baked potato with chickpea salad, local beers and the promise of fair trade or locally sourced ingredients at many cafes. But I can’t help noticing that there aren’t many places to grow for the people living in the big apartments that make up the New Town (even if grass rooves have been spotted, see pic above, in the Old Town area). As a result every grassy square (or more usually circle) we stroll past I imagine being turned into allotments.
It turns out I’m not dreaming alone. Energetic MA art student, Helen Johnson, has transformed the quadrangle at Edinburgh College of Art into an 18ft diameter veg plot between work on her final, weaving sea kelp. The plot has three raised beds, is already producing spinach and leeks and has a contract to supply the college canteen. Helen says it was inspired by the work of Joseph Beuys – the famous German sculptor with a colourful past, including a lucky escape from his crashed plane and the birth of the Green party.
And in early October the Scottish Government ordered public bodies to search for extra land that could be made available for public allotments. Already 3,000 people are on the waiting list – half of them in Edinburgh where there are 1,268 plots (rented for around £48 a year). Apparently it takes seven years to get to the top of the list…
Here’s my tip for Scotland’s rural affairs secretary, Richard Lochead, turn a blind eye to gardening on the green swathes that pepper Edinburgh. The Museum of Modern Art would be a good place to start, then the grassy makeover opposite Harvey Nichols and finally bulk buy a load of containers so people can try growing food up front.