Sunday, 25 September 2011

I heard it on the grapevine

This week has seen some glorious cropping on the allotment, the highlight of which was my annual grape picking. To be honest, I was late this year as I find I can only preserve one fruit per week. But a favourite of mine are the grapes, which are a tricky one to preserve as they have to be picked through to sort the bad grapes from the good then stewed and sieved, reducing the harvest down to 700mils of potent juice.

I started with 4 kilos of fruit which ended up as four small jars of delicious grape jelly with an intensity of flavour that it's hard to get with any other fruit. Grape jelly is a wonderfully wine-flavoured preserve that works well with croissants, cheese or anything where a distinct wine flavour is called for.

I picked another haul of apples and tweeted this shot while I was down on the site, which was re-tweeted with some lovely comments helping my twitter following rise to a thrilling 1,300 folk who are interested in my take on social enterprise, fruit, vegetables and family life.

This very welcome warm weather, combined with the effectiveness of my plan - hatched at the start of the year to have a productive September - is leading to a stunning autumn. In the past, the height of my cropping has come around in the more usual August when we are away and have missed out, so I am chuffed that, together with some lucky weather, we are having an outstandingly productive September.

Tomorrow I will be taking my award-winning apples to SEL's office and, later today, friends and family will be eating a C-shaped birthday cake I made for Hubbie, Chris, decorated with my delicious raspberries, which are still coming in at around 2 to 3 kilos a week.

I'd like to thank my friend and fellow social enterprise enthusiast Antonia Swinson, formerly of the Scottish Social Enterprise Coalition, who was visiting me this weekend and masterfully assisted with the cake. It turns out Antonia is not only a social enterprise expert, financial journalist and superb writer (I am a great fan of her books), she can cook as well.

One of Antonia's most entertaining books, You are What You Grow, was based on her experiences on her famous allotment in Edinburgh, If you are interested in the history and development of allotments, it's a great read.

Antonia was filling me in on her exciting new project, which you will hear more about in due course, but where she intends to use her superb financial credentials for the benefit of the social enterprise movement. This is good news for all of us. Antonia was a journalist on the Financial Times for many years and author of Root of all Evil, a book that ponders the impact of borrowing and debt and described by Alexander McCall Smith, the author of The Number One Ladies' Detective Agency as a "fascinating read - surely the most remarkable thing to have come from the pen of a financial writer for many a year". So she is well qualified to advise on the central challenge for our community, which is how we finance growth.

You heard it here first: the woman who is in print predicting the recession when the majority of economists were content with the pre-recession levels of individual and banking borrowing is going to focus that expertise and talent to tease out the issues for social enterprise. As Antonia and I agreed over the cocoa powder, for social enterprise, it's all about the money: where we get it from, what we have to do to attract it and how we spend it. Only with the right finance will we be able to maximise social value.


  1. Antonia says: It was great helping Allison out - loved the grapes! Social enterprises need investment and investors need information - hardly an redtop headline, but unless Allison needs more help baking, I'm on the case.

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