Once you begin to grow your own herbs, vegetables, and fruit you realise that there is a lot more to it than just eating them. Picking nine carrier bags of plums from the tree in my back garden the day before I went on holiday resulted in panic phone calls to friends with large freezers. Upon my return I made jam for the first time in my life. That was 15 years ago. I have now made jams, chutneys, rose petal jelly and used Swiss chard in more ways than I thought possible.
After making this face to amuse the children of some friends I remembered having come across the work of Giuseppe Arcimboldo many years ago when living in Florence. Faces made up of fruit and veg! It’s a fun idea that uses what grows in your garden to inspire the budding artists in your life. See TES website for related lesson plans.
In early October 2015 I harvested the most wonderful purple cabbage. Both blanching and steaming it left me with the most amazing colour water. It was good enough to use as a dye for cloth and produced more interesting colours than found on most high streets. So, it was like Guardian’s Cook Section in my house but even better. One cabbage – 4 meals AND a purpley-blue T- shirt! For inspiration and instructions, check out Remodelista website.
I grew up eating the flowers of the courgette plant and it was only after I began growing my own vegetables that I realised that pumpkin blossom can also be eaten in the same way. The simplest way is to batter fry them but I love them stuffed the Sicilian way or with mozzarella cheese and anchovies. Lots of other flowers are edible, though most too small to think about stuffing.
During a recent visit to one of the bars in The Shard (a very special treat) I noted that many of the cocktails were topped with pansies. Never having the time, patience or ingredients to make cocktails at home, the next week I simply threw my home-grown pansies into a salad to add a bit of colour and tasteful interest. See Thompson & Morgan website for some guidance on edible flowers.
I can never seem to grow enough parsley, coriander, dill or basil but I have a sage plant that threatens all else near-by. I hardly use it in cooking, so I have taken to bathing in it. Make a pot of sage tea and add it to your bath water. It is supposed to encourage wellness, have anti-viral and immune building properties. I just LOVE the scent! Try other easily grown edibles in you bath such as lemon balm and rosemary.
London’s growing season is never long enough to ripen all the tomatoes I grow. This year I had great success with Italian beefsteak tomatoes, however, by mid-October I was pretty certain those left green on the vine would not turn red. Last year I made jars of green tomato chutney but this season’s late heatwave meant I had fewer green ones. So it had to be fried green tomatoes! I do them simply – Just dip the slices in an egg beaten with some milk. Then cover them in a mixture of fine bread crumbs and cornmeal (polenta or maize flour) seasoned with a bit of salt, black pepper and/or cayenne pepper. Fry in a bit of hot oil. Drain on kitchen roll. Enjoy! To find the best in Italian tomato seeds have a look at Franchi Seeds of Italy.