Grit Blogs > You Are Where You Eat

Eating Great Britain, Part I: Gardening

picking English strawberries

The worst thing about being an expat wife is splitting life between two countries. And the best thing about being an expat wife is splitting life between two countries. We have to time phone calls just right, miss one family during the holidays, and deal with expensive flights and an exchange rate wildly out of our favor. On the other hand we have the perfect excuse to visit England anytime we want, play Austin tour guides on occasion, and –my personal favorite– swap our particular food and drink traditions, whether it be the esteemed Texas barbeque or the uniquely British pub culture.

Besides the image of a pint of bitter in front of a roaring fire, we all know the quintessential English garden: think roses in full bloom and lots of other flowery things that don’t grow particularly well in Texas heat. Ya know, the old Mary, Mary, quite contrary…thanks to all that abundant rain, not only do the Brits have great flowers, they can also grow a staggering variety of fruits and vegetables. Granted we have the sunshine and heat necessary for some real treats like melons, okra, and hot peppers. But on a visit to my father-in-law’s garden allotment, I couldn’t help but be a bit green with envy. Rows of Japanese onions, trellised beans, berries, currants, gorgeous lettuces, potatoes, and who knows what else.

fresh broad beans
Dad and June’s bountiful allotment is a short walk from their home in Bidford-on-Avon. They can be found there nearly every day, turning compost, tending plants in the greenhouse, and harvesting. They know the other gardeners, from the Japanese expat who modeled her garden after those from home to the man that prefers pesticides over hand weeding. Dad and June recently planted their first plum tree and explained that while they try new potato varieties, they always put in a row of Nadine, which are reliable and consistent. They eat what they grow; only stopping at the shop for milk, the butcher for meat, and the baker for bread. To me, it looks like simple living at its best. Besides, I always say that you don’t slow down because you get old, you get old because you slow down. And what better way to stay young than growing food?

a rare sunny afternoon in England