August 23, 2011
The longer I do this urban food growing thing, the more I find going on. Which makes sense obviously, but I never cease to be amazed by the range and scale of the projects that communities are setting up. The Wilton Estate Orchard (which also includes a sizeable vegetable garden) comprises 7 types of apple, pear and plum trees and is the result of a collaboration between the Wilton Estate Tenants and Residents Association (WETRA), Hackney Homes and the London Orchard Project. This fairly recent charity, founded in 2009, partners up with local authorities and community groups, helping residents set up orchards as well as providing the training they need to maintain and harvest them – their website informs us that in the past London was full of orchards: hospitals, universities, prisons and other institutions each had their own, meeting all their fruit needs.
The orchard is located on an unlikely bit of green space running along the corner of Forest Road and Greenwood Road. What’s nice is that there’s nothing very secret about it at all, it’s right there, opposite the rather good pub and the Costcutter, and yet I bet most people who walk past it daily don’t realise what it is. Heading into the estate you’ll find the slightly more secretive and very lovely vegetable garden which is maintained by the young residents.
January 11, 2011
Elaeagnus x ebbingei is a common evergreen shrub, recognisable by the beautiful silver underside of its leaves. It’s generally grown as an ornamental, but is incredibly valuable in the permaculture garden as it produces huge amounts of edible red berries in April and May, when few other fruit are available – these berries are widely used both in Chinese medicine and cooking. Thought to have anti-inflammatory properties, a liquid extract of the fruit is used for the treatment of arthritis.
It’s also a nitrogen-fixer, being one of the plants with the Rhizobia bacteria on its roots, and so has the added benefit of increasing your soil’s fertility when grown on a vegetable patch, while not really needing any attention or nourishment of its own.
If you locate an Elaeagnus hedge in your area, it’s worth keeping an eye on it towards late spring, as it really fruits very heavily. Pick the berries when they turn a deep red; any lighter than that and they’ll be fairly acidic. At the centre of the berry is a single seed covered with a fibrous coating – the seed is edible but you’ll probably want to spit out the tough coating.
06.05.11 See here for an update on recipes to try with your harvest.
November 22, 2010
Akebia quinata, native to Japan, China and Korea, tend to be grown as ornamentals but do produce incredible fruit that look like a sort of cross between a fig and an aubergine. The problem with growing them in the UK is that they flower in early spring when late frosts can damage the pollen and there are few pollinating insects about anyway, and so they rarely fruit in this country. I have two of these in my garden, and both did flower last year, so I’m going to have a go at hand pollination next year. I’ve been told the fruit’s pulp has a mild custard-like flavour.
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