Eat shoots and leaves

Town­ies can grow their own veg — even in a win­dow box

Evening Standard - West End Final Extra - ES Homes and Property - - Outdoors -

MORE than a quar­ter of mil­len­ni­als now grow their own veg­eta­bles, whether in a few pots by the back door or even on an in­side win­dowsill. Lack of space is no hin­drance when you can grow radishes and spring onions in egg boxes, salad in seed trays and chill­ies in old tomato tins.

The ur­ban farm­ing move­ment is now a world­wide phe­nom­e­non and get­ting our hands in the soil and grow­ing a few food plants has proven men­tal health ben­e­fits, con­nects us to na­ture in a techno-heavy world and tastes pretty good, too.

Da­rina Allen, head of the worl­drenowned Bal­ly­maloe Cook­ery School which sits in 100 acres of or­ganic farm­land in Ire­land, is a keen veg grower. Her new book, Grow, Cook, Nour­ish, is packed with grow­ing tips and in­ge­nious ways to pre­pare your har­vests, how­ever small. From sal­ads to pick­les, soups to stews, these are sim­ple, fresh dishes to show­case your har­vest. “As long as you have a win­dowsill and some kind of tray, some soil, a seed, a drop of wa­ter and some pa­tience, you can grow some­thing.”

If you only have an in­side win­dowsill, Allen rec­om­mends spring onions and radishes in mo­d­ule trays or egg boxes. Sow five onion seeds in each mo­d­ule be­low right, nas­tur­tium flow­ers are good in sal­ads. You can eat the seed pods, too

be­low, grow dif­fer­ent leaves for fresh help­ings all year, from let­tuce to ori­en­tal greens

be­low left, com­pact chillis Red­skin and Mon­key Face thrive in big tomato tins on a south-fac­ing win­dowsill for a mini bunch and cut the green part to add to eggs or pota­toes. En­joy your radishes sim­ply dipped in but­ter and sea salt or add them to stir fries, and don’t for­get you can eat the leaves.

What­ever the time of year, says Allen, you can grow mi­cro­greens in trays — “vi­brant lit­tle flavour bombs” of kale, ama­ranth, sor­rel, cel­ery or other herb and veg­etable seedlings — eaten when they’re only a few days older than a shoot. Or for some­thing a bit more sub­stan­tial, sow let­tuce, mizuna and mi­buna leaves in trays and leave them to grow into baby salad leaves, and you’ll get two or three cut­tings.

If you have space out­side the back door or on the bal­cony for some pots, Allen rec­om­mends grow­ing beetroot and eat­ing the leaves and stalks as well as the roots. Try beetroot tops and cream with pasta, or shaved beetroot and radish salad. Per­pet­ual spinach is on her A-list for pots and raised beds, too, “per­fect for small gar­dens and less likely to bolt than sum­mer spinach. Grow lots of it be­cause it dis­ap­pears dur­ing cook­ing.” Boil it in salted wa­ter and add chilli flakes, harissa and herbs.

A wig­wam of runner beans doesn’t take up much space in a pot and the flow­ers look beau­ti­ful. Don’t be dis­mayed when you for­get to pick them and find the beans have be­come too old. “If they’re too tough to slice thinly, make them into runner bean chut­ney,” says Allen. “And if they’re even big­ger, shell them and throw them into soups or stews.” Nas­tur­tiums are an­other dou­ble-whammy crop. They not only look cheer­ful, she says, but you can eat the flow­ers in sal­ads and the pep­pery seed pods fresh or pick­led. Cour­gettes thrive in a large pot and the book has plenty of en­tic­ing recipes for them, but you can eat the flow­ers, too, stuffed with moz­zarella or goats cheese.

TRY some­thing dif­fer­ent, Allen. “Every­one should grow at least one myr­tus ugni.” Also known as the Chilean guava, this ev­er­green shrub with glossy dark leaves and pretty pink flow­ers can be grown in a pot. The tangy, wine-coloured berries are de­li­cious in sal­ads, fruit com­potes or muffins. “And birds don’t like them.”

Grow, Cook, Nour­ish — a Kitchen Gar­den Com­pan­ion in 500 Recipes, by Da­rina Allen, is out now, pub­lished by Kyle Books (rrp £30).

Give me shel­ter: a bright in­side porch is ideal for toma­toes

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