The hungry gap months in the UK are usually in April and May, when the winter vegetables have all been used up or gone to seed, and the summer vegetables haven’t started yet. If the weather’s particularly bad in any given year, March and early June can be affected too.
If you’re trying to grow your own vegetables, fruit and herbs to save money then it’s good to try to grow something to eat all year round. Here’s how to fill the hungry gap by:
- Growing the right plants
- Beating the weather
- Storing and preserving
- Sprouting from seed
Growing the right plants
The most important way to beat the hungry gap is by growing plants that crop during April and May. You’ll have to plan ahead, as many of them take several months to mature or even a whole year. These are commonly sown in April – May or September – October.
Plants that give you food during the hungry gap and are relatively hardy include:
- broad bean tops
- curly kale
- purple sprouting broccoli
- spring cabbage and greens
- turnip tops
- winter cauliflower
Beating the weather
You can also grow a number of plants indoors, under cloches, in greenhouses and in polytunnels to extend the growing season and protect from the worst of the weather.
Extra plants you can grow like this include:
- beet leaf
- mustard greens
- oriental leaves
- soft herbs
- spring onions
Storing and preserving
You can also plan ahead and grow foods that store well for several months. Foods that store well include:
- cabbage (some round types)
- onions and shallots
- pumpkins and winter squash
Check and research varieties before growing them, because some are better for storing than others.
Other ways to provide food during the hungry gap include freezing, drying, bottling and canning your produce, and making pickles, chutneys and jams. Many chutneys improve in flavour while they mature, which is a bonus.
Sprouting from seed
While you can sprout seeds on a windowsill all year round, it really comes into its own during the hungry gap. Most seeds take just a few days to fully sprout, and they’re very fresh-tasting and nutritious.
Common examples of sprouted seeds include:
- aduki beans
- chick peas
- mung beans (grow in the dark to get stir-fry bean shoots)
You need to use clean water, follow strict hygiene and use the right kind of seeds when sprouting, to prevent bacterial contamination.
While they’re not strictly classed as sprouted seeds (because you don’t eat the whole plantlet), you can also quickly grow pea shoots, cress and various microgreens to help fill the hungry gap.
Do you have any other tips for bridging the hungry gap in a kitchen garden? Please share them if you do.