Dig deep and unearth your inner gardener
This unprecedented time in our history is repeatedly being compared to World War II with calls for us all to channel our inner ‘Blitz spirit’. It evokes the strength, determination, creativity and compassion for each other shown by the gritty city dwellers, as well as households up and down the land, during the German bombing campaign.
Among the obvious things we learn from this coronavirus pandemic, there will undoubtably be some surprising stuff we’ll discover about ourselves. We’ll probably discover just how resourceful we can be, devising different ways to keep ourselves amused that don’t involve the gym, cinema or dining out. It’s also a great time to revisit old hobbies and pastimes and find new ones to love – even being a bit more self-sufficient.
Fortunately, we’re not at the food rationing stage – although fisticuffs over toilet rolls and pasta weren’t too far away and managing to find a nine-pack of super soft is still almost like winning the lottery. Supermarkets now seem to be keeping up with demand following the stockpiling situation – although Supernoodle sanctions surely can’t be too far away – while still limiting shoppers to certain items we’re by no means having to resort to the likes of powdered egg and Spam – unless you like Spam of course.
However, uncertainty over how long self-isolation is going to last and amid concerns over the availability of overseas produce such as fresh fruit and vegetables, a mood reminiscent of the wartime ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign has kicked in. Lots of people are currently adopting The Good Life ethos – a 70’s sitcom based on a couple who turn their home into a self-sufficient farm for those who don’t know – and growing their own fruit and veg. The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) has already experienced a spike in visits to its website and seed manufacturers are reporting a huge rise in sales.
So, as we continue our series of blogs to help you stay fit, healthy and happy, we’re looking at how gardening could help sow the seeds of possibility over the next few months. Aside from any concerns over green grocery shortages, growing your own food is not only rewarding as you harvest the fruits of your labours, it also has a host of other benefits.
There’s an old Chinese proverb – yes, we know our stuff – that says ‘Life begins the day you start a garden’.
There’s also a quote that says “Gardening adds years to your life and life to your years’ -we’re not sure who said it but it sounds a bit like Alan Titchmarsh.
In essence, gardening is good for our physical health and mental wellbeing; it gets us outside in the fresh air, staying active and, according to the RHS – the number of calories burnt during 30 minutes of gardening is the same as playing badminton, volleyball or practicing yoga. It’s a relaxing way to pass the time and research has shown it can significantly reduce depression and anxiety. It’s also something engaging, enjoyable and educational to do with the kids. Let’s face it, anyone currently trying to home-school is well aware of engagement issues.
You can also use your garden or outdoor spaces as an opportunity for youngsters to learn more about bugs and bees – encouraging them to give nature a helping hand by building bug hotels or a bee B&B. BBC Newsround shows you how.
You don’t even have to have a garden to grow the seeds of this blossoming pastime. Transform your yard into a Yarden, growing fruit and veggies in tubs, fringed by flowering planters and hanging baskets, creating an oasis of pleasure and calm during these difficult times. You may even have a community garden on your street or a flourishing alleyway project which you can take in turns to tend with your neighbours. Even if you don’t have any outdoor space you can get creative with window boxes and grow herbs such as basil, mint and parsley on your windowsill. You can’t beat a sprinkling of fresh herbs in your cooking. You could even grow potatoes, carrots, tomatoes, lettuces and strawberries inside your home.
According to the RHS, April is an exciting and inspiring time for gardeners with seeds underway and spring blooms starting to appear – and it’s not too late to start. Garden centres and DIY stores may sadly be closed but there are plenty of online options to purchase seeds and plants. Some supermarkets are also selling a variety of garden plants and seeds so you could see what’s on offer while shopping for essentials. What you grow may inspire you to create new dishes or to turn to recipes you’ve never tried before.
Many new recipes rose from WWII rationing including Lord Woolton Pie, named after the Minister of Food who made it popular in 1940. It included seasonal vegetables readily available at the time including cauliflower, swede, carrots and turnips. Who knows, we may end with Boris Johnson Bolognese using homemade spaghetti – if we can find any flour that is!
Many of us are having to get creative when it comes to meal planning during the coronavirus crisis. And we’re doing our research – online searches for freezer meal prep have increased by 130%, how to freeze bread is up by 550% and egg longevity is up 50%. When it comes to pasta substitutes you could try spiralized courgettes – if you’re growing your own even better! – squash, sweet potatoes cooked and separated into strands or sliced aubergine for lasagna. When it comes to substituting eggs in baking Good Housekeeping recommends using fruit and vegetable purees such as apple sauce, mashed banana, mashed sweet potatoes or squash and pureed avocado or tofu.
Hopefully our gardening ideas will help you to plough on through the weeks ahead and we’ve given you some food for thought.
Whatever you’re up to, stay safe and well and we’ll be back again soon with some interesting insights and ideas to help you live well and feel good – don’t forget, we’re stronger together.
The Active Tameside Team