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Continuing our members blogs, Richard Brewster shares his unorthodox take on pest control…

There’s no better time of year for eating local. Vegetables are at the most varied and interesting, and July through to October maybe the only time of year that it’s really possible to source locally grown fruit.

In an area little more than the size of a tennis court we’ve managed to sign up hundreds of new Fife Diet members since July. And they are ultra orthodox in their approach. No sly convenience trips to Lidl or Asda for them, and they cock a snook at the food miles generated by locally grown organic veg box deliveries. These guys are hardcore, they stick purely to the raw, and they remain voracious consumers whilst still being loyal to the cause. It’s just a shame no-one at the Fife Diet has yet come up with a tasty way to cook white cabbage caterpillars.

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Richard’s daughter Jessie ‘helps’ with the bramble foraging

I try to follow permaculture principles in my garden where possible. I’d like to think that nature could offer a solution to the decimation wracked by these avaricious beasties. Maybe there is some kind of benign, child friendly goose that would wander the garden pecking caterpillars off my brassicas one by one, then it would move on to slugs for dessert, maybe prune my hedge, not to mention supplying us with eggs before collapsing with exhaustion on the 23rd of December just in time to make a tasty family roast for Christmas. I think I did see a similar thing in an episode of “The Goodies” in the seventies, only rather than having a pest control function their goose just laid golden eggs, which is almost the same. A supply of golden eggs would mean I could probably afford a gardener. And maybe buy a farm too. I’d have no challenges eating everything local then.

Instead my organic solution to the caterpillar problem is to go out into the garden and remove them by hand. There is an enameled chamber–pot in the garden that my 12 year old nephew initiated as a garden pest death camp starter-pack by chucking some slugs into it and covering them with salt. I don’t think this was out of any concern for damage slugs were inflicting on my garden. He just wanted to see slugs dissolving in salt. After his visit, the enameled chamber pot filled with rain water forming a liquid that resembled a dark peaty loch in the Scottish Highlands. It had a small surface area but it could have been thousands of feet deep. It was left in a convenient location for disposing of my caterpillar tormentors. I confess I never gave a second thought to caterpillar welfare. It was a grubby episode. Like a death camp commandant I scoured my brassicas looking for culprits to cast into the abyss. In fairness it seemed to snuff the breath from them pretty instantly. After some weeks my mother-in-law seemed to identify the contents of chamber pot as smelling slightly unsavoury (I can’t dispute this) and something that may have been a risk to small children (they’ve concocted worse), and took it upon herself to tip it on a border where one of my tomato plants was growing. I was slightly concerned that this was a death knell for my tomato plant – a perpetuated cycle of death. Caterpillar karma exacting its revenge. I needn’t have worried. There has since appeared on this previously unpromising plant a very healthy crop of green tomatoes. I already have jars full of green tomato chutney – it is yum.

Before I discovered their larvae scoffing my edibles, I had been rather fond of the little white butterflies going about their pollinating ways. It all seems a terrible waste. But it was either them or the purple sprouting broccoli. Mercifully things now seem to be recovering. By next summer I hope to have had more of a chance to research tasty ways to stir fry caterpillar. Insects after all are supposed to offer the way forward for the world food crisis. Fife Diet insect sub specialty group anyone?

We’re looking for Fife Diet members to share their experiences of local eating in future blogs. How do you make the Fife Diet work for you? What successes (and failures!) have you experienced? Why do you think a local diet is so important? Get in touch with mags@fifediet.co.uk if you’d like to write for us. 

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