Edible Armley?

How far would you go to acquire a bunch of fresh spinach?

I don’t mean how far as in, would you ramraid your local allotment, point a sawn off shotgun at a border terrier, yell “Give me all your leafy greens, or the dog gets it!” at a startled pensioner, snatch all the salad you can before jumping into a souped up Mini Cooper and tearing away?

That would be too far, even for me. Even for spinach.

I mean, how far would you go, distance-wise. In metres, yards, kilometres or miles? How far would you walk (or drive, if you must) to procure a pack of swiss chard, arugula or bok choy?

Would you go the extra mile for kale?

A while ago I was in a shop on Armley Town Street when a bag of spinach caught my eye. I’d not intended to buy more than a pack of stock cubes, a Green and Black organic salted caramel chocolate bar, and some fancy fava bean pasta, but it’s the sort of shop that sells heaps of intriguingly random, cut price items, which are impossibly tempting.

It’s like an explosion in a lucky bag factory. If the lucky bag factory bagged leafy greens. Which would certainly be a novelty.

I put the spinach in my bag and joined the queue for the checkout.

I’m one of those very annoying people who gets magnetically attracted by text. Anything printed. I can’t not look at a list of ingredients, the marketing blurb, or even a “Best before” date. If there’s words, I have to read them. Which is how I know exactly how much niacin, thiamin, barley malt extract and vitamin B12 is added to your pack of Morrison’s rice krispies. I know the precise amount of rehydrated textured soya protein, methyl cellulose, and red iron oxide is in each and every Linda McCartney sausage. And don’t get me started on the chemical composition of most “plant-based” supermarket produce (though I still have no idea what “konjac” is.)

I’m a vegetarian, but I tend to prefer my dinner to be a bit more food-like, and a lot less of a chemistry experiment.

So I assumed I was good with a bag of spinach.

It’s just leaves, right? And air? Pretty straightforward?

Fair enough, there’s the plastic bag, that can’t be good. And it’s not really air, it’s an artificial atmosphere that keeps the thing “fresh” for longer. Then there’s the fertilisers in the soil, and the bee-choking chemicals that get spread, sprayed and dusted to make sure the nasty bugs don’t get a free lunch… but best not think of any of that. A quick rinse with tap water, it’s washed down the drain.

Still, it’s just spinach. One of the five a day. A green. Leafy. It’s even a bloody superfood! Ticks all the boxes.

So, there I was on Armley Town Street, planning on making a lasagna for tea, feeling obnoxiously virtuous (I wasn’t buying turkey twizzlers!) when I happened to clock the tiniest bit of text on the label… PORTUGAL.

The Iberian Peninsula. A holiday destination. I’ve got a mate who’s over there now, having a great time.

But it’s over a thousand miles away. Further than France. Beyond Spain. Nearer to Africa than Leeds is to London.

This (slightly limp, and more than slightly browning) leafy green was better travelled than I was.

I’m not against the global trade in food. What would life be without avocados, olives, chillies? Or pineapples? I’m pretty sure LS12 will never get a call from the Man From Del Monte to negotiate a price for the latest crop of spiky but delicious tropical fruit in Jaily Fields. And grapes are definitely out. I can’t see New Wortley Merlot ever becoming a thing (which is a damned shame, and if anyone fancies giving it a try, I’m in.)

But spinach?

Surely we can grow our own greens in Armley?

Nothing exotic. 

I’m not going full kumquat here.

Just bog standard, basic, boring veg… I don’t think any veg is boring btw, I was just going for the alliteration. Another annoying habit.

So… I got in touch with the folks at Incredible Edible Leeds through the Armley Climate Action Hub.

Within weeks we’ve been offered raised beds at a local GP surgery (Armley Moor. Come and have a look.)

And Incredible Edible Leeds are providing seeds, and compost, and knowhow (if there’s anything I lack, it’s that!)… Everything we need to grow some of our own food. 

All we need now are some more volunteers to help make these things work. Help grow some spinach. Spuds. And carrots. Maybe a herb or two. If we’re aspirational, asparagus… Sorry, making an assonance of myself again there.

Definitely an apple tree… it’s a doctors’, come on, it has to be done.

We could even try grapes… Go for it. Armley loves a trier.

Get in touch.

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