Tag Archives: vegetable growing

Organic Vegetables are best

Green Beans and Summer Dreams


Catherine Ferguson

Review for Netgalley

A light and feel good book where all ends well and happily but there are many trials and tribulations to go through first.

Here we have someone whose life and romances do not go well and being unemployed but owning a large garden thinks she can set up a business selling hervegetable-heart.jpg vegetables, just as she did when a child outside by the road. But she does not set up a road-side stall or even go to a market to sell her goods, rather decides that a box scheme whereby she delivers the vegetables to a customer would be the way to go.

Certainly boxes of vegetables are regularly being delivered all round the UK and I, myself, have a box of (certified) organic vegetables delivered to me on a regular basis.

In the UK you need to be certified as organic to sell your goods as being organic and this our heroine did not realise until told. So, although she grows her vegetables in an organic manner she is not certified and thus cannot sell her vegetables as organic. This is a serious flaw in her scheme until she finds an alternative supplier and so her delivery scheme grows despite a number of set-backs all of which are detailed in an amusing fashion here. She is a far from cynical or world-wise young women let alone having any business savvy, and thus many disasters befall her on her way to success.

What surprised me was that a: she did not set up stall also in a Farmer’s Market; b: she did not use her glut of crops to make her soups and jams and even chutneys, despite being told how delicious they were; and c: she did link up with her neighbour to sell her cakes and biscuits as additional items for her customers. I know that soups, jams and chutneys sell well in Farmer’s Markets from my own experience of buying them, and I don’t fret if they are not organic so long as they are local.

So chick lit at its best with a happy ending – which I had predicted from ye very first meeting of the two characters…



Musings – on seeds: gluttony or gastronomy

cookbook shelf 1

cookbook shelf 1 (Photo credit: chotda)

The vegetable seed catalogues have arrived and I carefully limit the time I spend looking at them. How do I choose what to grow? I want to grow them all!


Why limit the time? Because unless I have some time to think and plan and look and calculate just how much our small boxes will grow, I will gaily fill in an order with every seed.  Gluttony.

But no, I am a gastronome too. I only have two catalogues, one of which is solely organic and the other has organic and heritage seeds only. Why choose these two from all abundance of offerings? Well, when I look at vegetable seeds I envision what I will cook with them. A seed catalogue is a recipe book.


Organic because I believe that they taste better and surely the lack of pesticides mean that they will be better for us health-wise. Heritage seeds because they look fantastic and also may taste better too – surely purple carrots will taste different from organic ones? I know that different coloured tomatoes taste different so why shouldn’t different shaped and coloured beans?


I love to cook and to eat too… a weight problem [although I can claim some medical reasons but still…] will justify that one! Also I am vegetarian and thus taste and variety are very important.

Gastronomy again

I can claim to have gone to the Fat Duck when Heston Blumethal didn’t have 3 Michelin stars! Maybe one though… and I’ve been more than once… I have in truth been to quite a few Michelin starred places to eat and enjoyed them all although don’t particularly Gordon Ramsay and his style of cooking as evidenced by his tutees – too French and too much cream and general richness. Not good vegetarian food either. I went to Claridges Hotel run by Angela Harnett then, and was offered roasted summer vegetables as my main course – not imaginative.

Vegetarian cookery

Now talking of imagination and gluttony or gastronomy, I have been very interested to see that there is a new Vegetarian cookery magazine out again. The BBC used to publish one many years back and I still have all these stored away. This new one has some interesting new ideas and links to interesting projects. For instance for anyone living south of the river in London there is a workers’ cooperative growing food in the Lea Valley, http://www.organiclea.org.uk Chingford in fact, which has a great box scheme – but you have to pick it up.  They do lots of courses there and are interested in supporting community groups in growing. Unfortunately I live north of the river and so can’t get their stuff, but they do good recipes…

But rather more on the theme of gluttony and gastronomy I was interested to read in the magazine about Veggiestan food which sounds fascinating. Apparently it is the name coined by Sally Butcher  – who is married to an Iranian – and thus is interested in Iranian and other Middle Eastern food ideas. She has a shop in Peckham which is full of goodies and has written 2 cook books of ideas from the region which incorporate a lot of fruit in with the savoury.

And of course, talking of cook books, which vegetarian is not reading Yotamm Ottolenghi’s new book Plenty. This is a great book just to touch as the cover is somehow padded and feels so nice and then the full page photos just make you salivate. I confess to not having cooked from it yet, but it is lovely to read…!

Growing vegetables in interesting and recycled containers!

We had an interesting couple of meetings this week as our two Garden groups have ‘invented’ a sub-group this month.

Our local Residents Association has a competition every other year for the best Front Garden in our area and we want to encourage some of the shared ownership houses/flats in particular, to put  a little effort into these gardens to improve the look as we walk around. Some gardens are wonderful of course, some are awful. So we created a sub-group to help people improve their fronts. We do give out certificates for best in road and prizes such as vouchers for garden sundries so there is some reward for those who undertake this hard work.

The sub-group met at my house and we agreed a poster and press release to sent out in local newsletter and then discussed what we could do in terms  of having an advice stall. We have agreed to provide some seedlings and seeds and advice at a venue and the RA has donated some soil so we are now encouraging our garden group members to plant some seeds for this event in March. The seeds were very kindly donated to us by Thompson and  Morgan so no expense there.

We thought we should help people think a little innovatively about what they use as containers if they don’t have a flower bed and so a picture of  broccoli growing well in a (no longer used by the Council) recycling box might help or a raised bed made from left-over wooden slats. We were hoping to collect lots of these from the Council but it seems they have already been recycled… I have started my seedlings off – well seeds so far – in yoghurt pots and veg trays – all about recycling you know…we thought about making pots from newspaper but that did seem hard work!

The talk got onto how to prevent the squirrels digging up bulbs and then how to stop them eating all the birdseed too. .. the squirrels in my garden jump some 10 feet to get onto the feeders – really revving up their tails and shaking with adrenalin as they prepare to jump… and the idea of chilli powder in the birdfeed was raised. Now I’m already trying this as they are very greedy those squirrels!

Someone has tried chilli around bulbs but it is washed away by the rain so perhaps not so good but they do seem to be a nuisance in some gardens – maybe feeding them birdseed prevents them digging up bulbs I wonder? We don’t seem to have that much of a problem with them that way.

Has anyone got any suggestion or photos of really interesting and recycled containers they have used? Or good looking small front gardens we can use for inspiration? Bearing in mind this is an urban area and so really pretty country gardens are not so useful. We do think that veggies in the front would be just as good as flowers and so some people are going to start some veg seeds as well as flowers but we don’t have a lot of time to plant and grow before mid-March… however, we shall give away more mature plants – if any are left over – at our AGM in May ready to plant out and beautify before judging in late May.

The group got onto other items and we heard that Thompson and Morgan are offering a prize of £500 for anyone who finds a new plant or bulb in their garden. They are hoping to breed new plants and it seems they have done this before from new strains people have ‘found’. So everyone should look out for unusual looking plants… though I think I might want a share in the final profit rather than a prize up front… can’t find details on their website though I was shown a leaflet so am sure it is real, just not publicised properly yet.