Keeping the plot: A journal of growing and cooking Scottish produce – July 2019

A month-by-month celebration of great Scottish food, blogger Joe Hind takes us through his guide to growing and cooking Scottish produce.

Published 12th Aug 2019
Updated 12 th Aug 2019

I must confess something: I have been trying to aggressively create a hostile environment for a family of non-documented foreigners who seem to think they have the right to live here.

I have even resorted to using water cannon on their home.

Don’t worry, I haven’t joined the Home Office.

I’m talking about wasps.

Buzzy little blighters have created a nest in the compost heap. The previously mundane act of topping up the pile has turned into a Matrix-like challenge of dodging wafting, dart-bottomed drones.

I doused the pile with water to try and make life harder for them because research suggests wasps arrive when compost becomes too dry.

There are two reasons why my pile has dried out. Firstly, it sits under a tree.

Secondly, Edinburgh has recently been almost as hot as parts of Spain. There’s a certain irony that I just returned from those very parts of Spain.

Spanish cities understandably handle heat better than Edinburgh. Even small shops have air conditioning. Street bars have misting pipes, pumping a fine, cooling spray onto your face as you drink beer and eat dried slices of locally caught tuna.

The equivalent to this in Edinburgh is to wait for The Harr, a rolling sea mist that envelopes the city.

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When it comes, just grab some chips and a can of lager and head to the park. It’s practically the same experience.

I jest of course. My wife and I noted during the holiday that we are becoming quite spoiled by the quality of food in Edinburgh and that we struggled to find tapas in Spain that matched the best of what we have eaten here in terms of either provenance or quality. So well done Edinburgh!

As you can imagine, on our return from a two-week break, the plot was unruly. Brassica decimated by birds, carrots overrun with weeds and barely visible, purple beans stunted for no obvious reason.

Ongoing frustrations during what has been a challenging growing year.

On a more productive note, broad beans are doing well, as are small, prickly “apple” cucumbers in the greenhouse. They are slightly sweet and melon-like with a satisfying crunch.

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During July I spent several long Sundays and evenings weeding the plot and once again battled the part of my brain that has for years pursued a “clear desk policy”. I strive to end my working day promptly, my to-do list complete.

My mind is thus empty of pressing tasks as I re-enter leisure-state. This state of mind is remarkably effective for juggling project management and family life.

It works less well surrounded by clumps of horsetail, a quick-growing, highly invasive weed that cannot be removed as its roots lie two metres underground.

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Unless someone reading this knows otherwise, there is no way of clearing it without applying strong chemicals repeatedly over several years to food producing soil, something I am not prepared to do. It has become a never-ending leafy form of whack-a-mole.

This disturbs me quite deeply and offers another example of how, when it comes to managing an allotment, you aren’t the boss.

You will never beat nature. You can merely work with it, choosing what to plant and timing it carefully to hopefully outcompete weeds.

Leaving tasks incomplete, knowing that on the plot they will not just sit there but continue to grow relentlessly until I can next find time to wearily tackle a small percentage, is something that I am in truth still getting used to but, as I continue to learn about myself through growing food, I also recognise that it is quite a privilege to be on such a journey of self-discovery.

Keeping the Plot: A journal of growing and cooking Scottish produce – June 2019

Joe lives in Edinburgh with his wife and two daughters. He grows food on the family allotment, works for a Scottish food and farming charity and is passionate about cooking and eating good food. Contact him:
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