20 Sep 2009

Grow your Own! (Part 1)

A cook’s ultimate ambition (if so inclined and if space and time allow) is to combine their cooking skills with gardening and grow some, if not most, of their fruit and vegetables. This gives a sense of accomplishment and makes the final dish taste nicer than with the (super-)market-bought ingredients, while saving you some cash, and giving you peace of mind about the quality of the produce. It also binds you closer to nature and gives a sense of purpose, structure and perseverance to your gardening endeavours.

Flower market, Amsterdam, Spring 2008

It is wrong to believe that cultivation requires land. Some individuals are incredibly inventive and will grow tomatoes, peppers, courgettes or radishes on a balcony, a roof terrace, a patio, a windowsill, a front door step, or sneak onto the back alley or the cul-de-sac’s nooks and crannies. Back in the late 1950s in Corsica, my great auntie filled her dry stone wall crevices with a bit of soil and sowed flat leaf parsley, and the herb was still thriving 30 years later!

Nowadays major cities like Amsterdam or certain parts of London have witnessed a green-fingered approach to the urban environment by local neighbourhoods, with decorative plants, climbers, herbs and vegetables sprouting between pavement stones, along a wall, around municipal trees, etc. However it is best to check with your local Council first as some can be funny about this vegetal ‘take-over’.

The beauty of it all! The streets of Amsterdam display impromptu floral touches.

A variety of pots (not necessarily the prim terracotta variety!) will help you to achieve your goal. A redundant wheelbarrow, trough, gutter, Belfast sink, unwanted fish tank, decommissioned dustbin, tin tub, old bucket, wicker basket, wooden crate or chest drawers, hollowed tree log, barrel, discarded saucepan, empty biscuit tin, cut plastic bottle, those wooden clogs from Holland, or any homemade container will be improvised into a mini cultivation patch in their own right. Tomatoes or strawberries will thrive directly out of a grow-bag available from your local nursery. My local garden centre sells hanging baskets garnished with a cluster of strawberry plants (another container idea to emulate!) (to be continued)

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