‘The Big Allotment Challenge’ book review
You’ve enjoyed all six episodes of The Big Allotment Challenge on the telly and now you can own the book.
Published by Hodder & Stoughton, this colourful and sturdy hardback runs to 256 pages.
It starts with a brief word from presenter Fern Britton before a double page packed with photos of the contestants and judges from series one. They’re all there, in their natural habitat on their plots.
However, that’s the first and last time that you will see the contestants in this book. It is not a story of their exploits on the show though it does feature some of the challenges that they took on.
The book is essentially divided into three sections along the same lines as the television programme: Grow, Make and Eat.
The ‘Grow’ section is by far the largest of the three sections taking up well over half of the book and it’s further divided into five sub-sections correlating to periods of the year.
These sub-sections span 89 pages and detail relevant tasks to be undertaking as the year progresses. They start with planning your plot right and finish with planting bulbs at the end of the year.
Despite the TV show feeling a bit light on detail this book really makes up for it with many pages packed full of practical advice and comparisons of different approaches to subjects like improving the soil and storing your harvest.
The remaining 74 pages of the ‘Grow’ chapter comprise an A-Z of plants split into sections for vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers.
Each vegetable has its own page of information about sowing, growing, harvesting and potential problems. This is all useful stuff, especially the potential problems information!
Twenty-four of the most popular vegetables are covered in this section which is just about enough.
The herb, fruit and flower sections follow a similar format and when looked at as a whole this A-Z is pretty comprehensive and covers nearly everything you might try growing on your own plot.
The second section of the book – the ‘Make’ section – showcases the floral challenges that the contestants were set on the TV programme. There is the hanging floral design, the topiary tree and the pedestal, amongst others.
Each design has a full page photo with accompanying text detailing how to construct it and also some extra tips from the judge of these challenges, Jonathan Moseley.
This section contains only around 20 pages but the full-page photos make the finished designs look stunning.
The final section of the book is titled ‘Eat’. It’s here that you will find recipes that might have come in handy for some of the contestants on the show.
There are recipes and methods for jams, cordials, curds, chutneys, pickles, relishes, jellies, preserves and even a salsa.
There’s the Quickalilli that Gary and Pete made and also the ever useful Green Tomato Chutney for all those that stubbornly refused to turn a nice red colour.
There’s even a recipe for preserved courgettes which is bound to come in handy because you will end up with too many of them. You might not think so, but you will do.
As you would expect, all of these foods are attractively photographed to inspire you to have a go at making them. And so you should – most of the methods only run to four or five steps.
It all seems quite simple. What could possibly go wrong? Cast your mind back to the television programme to find out.
This book really is worth a look. The huge number of photos will draw you in as soon as you open it and a simple browse will quickly turn into a more lengthy read.
But it’s more than just appealing photos. It also works well as a reference when you need to find some specific information about a particular vegetable, a way of doing something or a comparison between different approaches. It really does cover every topic you might have questions about.
The style is accessible to the novice plotter while more experienced growers will still enjoy reading through the ‘Grow’ section in particular.
It’s hard to think of any allotmenteer that wouldn’t enjoy owning this book and as such it would make an ideal present.
The only sticking point is the cover price – £20 – which seems a little steep but you can generally find it for £9 or less on Amazon (direct link to the book) which makes it extremely good value.