Ain’t that the truth!
March 5, 2015, 9:30 am
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Growing your own food is like printing money


Marvellous Mushrooms
January 13, 2015, 12:00 pm
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If, like me, you get a bit twitchy in winter without lots of lovely veg to grow, why not try an indoor mushroom kit?

Mellors and I bought a range of kits from Espresso Mushroom Company, which are cardboard boxes containing mushroom spores in a compost of coffee grounds. You just wet the contents and watch the mushrooms grow almost overnight.


mushroom kit


They grow so quickly (with almost creepy haste, like tasty, colourful Triffids)  – the kids love seeing how much bigger they are every day.  Give it a go. Mushroom risotto for the Hillbillys tonight!

Seasonal recipes for August
July 29, 2014, 3:41 pm
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Sautéed swiss chard with garlic 

1kg/2½lb chard, Swiss, ruby or rainbow are fine
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 red onions, peeled and finely chopped
juice and zest 1 orange
2 tbsp sunflower oil

1. Take the chard leaves off the stalks and shred the leaves and stalks finely. Keep them separate.
2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok. Add the onions and the chard stalks and stir-fry for 3-4 minutes until starting to soften. Add the garlic, chard leaves and orange zest and mix together. Season well and stir-fry for another 2-3 minutes until the leaves have wilted.
3. Stir in the orange juice and serve at once.

Apricot and cinnamon fritters

100g/ 3 ½ oz self-raising flour
5 tbsp cold sparkling water
300ml/ ½ pint vegetable oil
2 apricots, halved and stones removed
30g/1oz icing sugar, to dust
1 tsp cinnamon

1. Whisk together the flour and sparkling water to make a thick batter.
2. Place the vegetable oil into a deep, heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat until a small cube of bread sizzles and turns golden when dropped into it. (CAUTION: hot oil can be dangerous. Do not leave unattended.)
3. Dip the apricots in the batter and gently lower into the hot oil. Fry until crisp and golden.
4. Carefully remove the battered apricots with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.
5. Dust with icing sugar and cinnamon while hot and serve

Celebrity gardener to narrate GardenAfrica radio appeal

GardenAfrica is delighted to announce that gardening enthusiast Monty Don will be narrating our next BBC Radio 4 Appeal!

Please listen in as Don tells the story of Beauty, a Zimbabwean woman and how GardenAfrica has changed her life.

The Appeal will be broadcast on Sunday 3 August at 7.55am and again on Thursday 7th August at 15.27. 

Monty Don presented BBC’s Gardeners World TV program from 2003-2008. He is passionate about organic gardening and is President of the Soil Association.

Read more about Radio 4 appeals here.

Monty Don


The rains down in Africa
January 6, 2014, 8:40 pm
Filed under: Edible Gardening, South Africa Gardens | Tags: , , , ,

London is drenched. Deluged. Pavements a-puddle, my garden, a lake. Red buses spray commuters with waves. And not just London, people. The Cotswolds are awash. The good folk of Tewkesbury are ripping up the sodden, soddin’ carpet and canoeing to work once again.

These are the problems with non-stop rain: my washing is drying all over the house, on radiators and banisters. My children are either going spare cooped up indoors, or catching never-ending colds while sloshing knee deep through puddles. Filthy wellies (the smalls) and dripping biker boots (me) clutter my front room. These past few weeks have been record-breakingly wet and stormy. Judging from my Face Book feed, the entire country is staring at the sky united with one thought: Stop raining. PLEASE!

What a change from my childhood in South Africa.

The 1980s were plagued by drought. We were not allowed to water anything. The lawn turned yellow and stayed that way. How that sharp dry grass scratched my permanently bare feet! It was almost – but not quite – as bad as the stinging bites of the red ants on the driveway. Eina! Then there was a ban on filling one’s swimming pool – though everyone knew someone on their street who did it; usually at night and with the hosepipe below water level to muffle any tell-tale gushing. And thanks to a public advice advert shown on television urging us not to waste water, I had to share a bath with my sister. She hogged the ducks.

Sure these hardships are what the Twitter generation dubs #firstworldproblems. (My swimming pool isn’t completely full! My champagne fountain is so loud, I can’t hear my string quartet! A superb Water Aid ad encapsulates this attitude brilliantly.)

So in my fluffy middle class existence, droughts meant yellow grass in the suburbs and shared ablutions. But for less privileged people in Sub Saharan South Africa, no rain = no food.

These are the problems with no rain: Droughts cause more deaths and displacement than cyclones, floods or earthquakes, making them the world’s most destructive natural hazard, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Since the 1970s, the land area affected by drought has doubled, with women, children and the elderly often paying the heaviest price.

Droughts can cause devastating food and water shortages, degrade agricultural land, and fuel conflict. The most vulnerable countries are located in the world’s drylands, with the poorest communities in Africa and parts of western Asia at particular risk, the FAO says.

Food shortages lead to so many other problems. When children are hungry, their parents are obliged to leave home and their land to try and find work so their children have something to eat. For people who rely on the food they grow for survival, this short-term solution can lead to long-term disaster. The effort required to put food on the family’s table today leaves little time to get fields ready to produce a good harvest so the family has food for the future. When their food stores are exhausted, what little money a family has saved must be spent on food in the daily battle simply to stay alive. As the money runs out, parents withdraw children from school. The cycle of poverty continues.

Charities like GardenAfrica are working hard to improve food security in Sun Saharan Africa. Techniques such as water conservation and mulching give vegetable gardens a chance against the pitiless sun. The fantastic “spiral” shaped garden is designed to harvest, store and sink water, with simple techniques for building soil fertility and structure and increasing moisture retention. In the face of hunger, drought and other adverse environmental factors planting a garden seems like a tiny gesture – a pebble flung at a Goliath. But this simple remedy is working. Read some of the charity’s success stories to find out how!

As I open my umbrella and head out, shoulders hunched against the soaking weather, it is almost impossible to believe that in South Africa, a mother of two is scanning a cloudless sky, praying for rain.

Bountiful autumn
September 19, 2013, 12:36 pm
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Bountiful autumn

Yellow cherry tomatoes – grown from seed


Making vegetables funky: an awesome festival of food at one of the worlds most incredible botanical gardens
September 10, 2013, 8:57 pm
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We have been making excellent use of our membership to Kew Gardens lately. This utterly beautiful botanical garden in South West London is crammed with treats – too many to see all in one day, hence the yearly pass.

There are hothouses brimming with orchids, a treetop walkway, an Orangery serving English tea  and (for those of us with very small children) aquariums of turtles to ooh & aah over and an educational play centre.

At the moment Kew is hosting the IncrEdibles festival – a voyage through surprising edible plants. Much thought, wit and imagination has gone into this festival, making the most mundane of vegetables exciting. My kids loved the enormous carrot tops poking from the soil – proof that giants exist! – and Mellors of course was enchanted with the Global Kitchen Garden; but my favourite was the tea party set up in the Rose Garden. A wooden table, bursting with edible plants, is set for tea with china and riddles. Love a Bakewell Tart? Find the ingredients growing on the table (answer: almond and cherry trees).

The festival also includes talks, tours, a foraged meal in the divine Orangery restaurant (sadly currently too expensive for us as I am on maternity leave: we are down to one salary and, as we Londoners say, skint) and  *possibly* cooking demonstrations but this last might just be rumour. Anyway. IncrEdibles at Kew is fabulous. Well worth the trip to SW London – for the giant pineapple on the lake alone.