FEW observers have kind words to say about the plastic greenhouses that crowd the coastline between Almeria and Malaga, in southern Spain. Apparently, they constitute the largest concentration of greenhouses on the planet, providing out-of-season vegetables for the supermarkets of northern Europe.

It would be easy to brand them an unsightly intrusion along an otherwise unspoilt and dramatic coastline – which is what most people do. But the industry provides work for thousands of locals and migrants, and ensures the shelves are heavily stocked with blushing tomatoes and tender courgettes the whole year round.

I was brought up in a village hemmed in by pit spoilheaps and ironworks slagbanks, so I can do ugly environments if I have to. I suppose it’s a matter of taste and familiarity. If flimsy, semi-permanent structures are unsightly, what’s beautiful about those chokingly drab industrial parks that have entrenched themselves on the outskirts of every European town?

Still, so long as there are shrink-wrapped cucumbers and a bag of Tesco mixed-leaf salad in the fridge, does it really matter?

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