22/10/15 Allotments are good for your health

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The benefits of growing your own in Vitoria-Gasteiz

allotment: a garden used for growing vegetables

to put name forward: to sign up and participate.

to be green-fingered: to be good at gardening.

turnip: a root vegetable, a staple food in Britain.

plot: a small piece of land – as in ‘plot of land.’

leek: a long vegetable from the onion family.

AKA: acronym ‘also known as.’

rhubarb: an essential ingredient of delicious UK dessert

Vocabulary. Read and check you understand this before you read and listen to the article:


One project which has almost survived the cuts in Vitoria-Gasteiz has been the municipal Ecological allotments in Olárizu and Abetxuko. Any citizen over eighteen can put their name forward to take part in a lottery and if you are lucky enough to have your name pulled out of the hat you are invited to take part in a course in which you learn basic gardening and allotment skills. In keeping with Vitoria’s cherished Green image the allotments are strictly ecological and the use of chemicals and pesticides is completely prohibited.

My own experience on my allotment in Olárizu has been marvellous. I have spent four years in the open air in all weathers growing my vegetables and enjoying the fruits of nature. I started off with little horticultural knowledge but  I now consider myself to be quite green-fingered.

My family, friends and work colleagues have enjoyed my tomatoes, turnips and my chilli peppers. At home we have learned to do 101 different dishes with pumpkins and customers in my favourite bar, the Rey Louis in Judizmendi, take the challenge with my extremely hot sauces on ‘Pintxo Pote’ night.

Each allotment user has a limit of four years on their plot due to the long waiting list to join the project. As I come to the end of my time I reflect on the many benefits of working on the land.

The wonderful feeling of growing your own is hard to put into words. One Christmas every thing we ate on December 25th was from the allotment (apart from the meat).

I have met some interesting people and made new friends chatting about the best way to encourage our leeks to grow fat. I have noticed some amusing cultural differences as well when people from Alava have asked me why I was growing ‘pig food’ aka turnips. They remain unconvinced about this wonderful vegetable. Similarly they do not really get why British people love rhubarb and our eyes nostalgically mist over when we lick our lips at the thought of rhubarb crumble.

I have also enjoyed the health benefits of being out in the open air. A regular hour on the allotment can get you as fit as expensive sessions in the gym.

I can also feel smug with the environmental benefits of growing my own food.

By growing locally, I have reduced my carbon footprint and by buying less inefficiently packaged food in supermarkets I have less household waste to fill the bins with.

I am going to miss my allotment. Time to put my name down for the next lottery in February!

John Hird is ECP’s resident gardening expert. If you have any questions about growing your own vegetables, just ask our green-fingered coach!

“Let’s chat about that!”

  • Do you or have you ever ‘grown your own’?
  • Have you got ‘green fingers’?
  • What is your favourite vegetable?
  • How can VG council extend the municipal Allotments project? Any ideas?


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