More Jews in Britain are finding spiritual and culinary inspiration by growing their own food.
Jews are known for their love of food, but less so for their love of farms. Most Jews in Britain live in big cities where, like many urban-dwellers, they are detached from the people and places producing their nosh. But the sterile fruit and veg in supermarkets and the economic pressure of the recession are inspiring more Brits to grow their own.
In Israel, allotments are few and far between (probably owing to the fact that land is scare, water is scarcer and quality local produce is abundant).
But in Britain, there are around 330,000 allotments – with some cities having a waiting list of several years.
The Big Green Jewish website has an allotment blog following the sowing, composting and pruning habits of north Londoner, Alexei Charkham, and his green-fingered family.
Last week, the Jewish Chronicle reported on the “grow-your-own revolution” which is inspiring everyone from suburban families to rabbis to work the land. With the help of local volunteers, Rabbi Natan Levy recently converted the backyard of the London School of Jewish Studies into a mini-farm as part of a “living Judaism” course:
“I have found it very therapeutic. First of all I like that gardening requires emunah – you have to have a lot of faith. You put these seeds in the ground, water them and pray like crazy,” says Rabbi Levy. “We live in a world that is very disconnected from what we eat and how it is produced. It helps me on many different levels to see where a carrot comes from. It just takes a little bit of that initiative, which gives a lot of empowerment.
In the west of the city, the post-denominational Jewish community, Moishe House, has launched a box scheme, delivering fresh produce from local green grocers, as well as piloting raised bed horticulture in its back yard.
This spring, I decided to try growing my own veg for the first time. With a few pots filled with compost, my small patio has been transformed into a thriving horticultural plot. I’m not giving up my day job yet, but the satisfaction of seeing a seed I planted with my own hands spiral into 10-foot runner bean is priceless.