October 26, 2011
For lovely Naomi’s birthday we took a trip to the Forest Farm Peace Garden on Hazelbrouck Gardens in Hainault – so far East London that it’s technically Essex. The nine mile cycle to get there from Hackney quickly turned in to fifteen after getting lost a dozen times – but we did find a nice apple tree on the way, somewhere inside the Roding Valley.
This garden, built on an abandoned site is sumptuous – part allotment, part community garden with an eclectic mix of users (and hence an eclectic range of crops) – it is also deceptively large and feels self-contained somehow – as if you could spend days here and always have something to do. Don’t be put off by their website (or lack of) – it’s a truly inspiring (and beautiful) place.
When we visited, on an apocalyptic grey Sunday in October, the garden was open for the Abundance Open Day. An enormous apple harvest had produced the most delicious, dark brown, thick apple nectar I have ever tasted and was being sold for next to nothing along with piles of the apples themselves, chutneys, pumpkin curry, potato stew and clear East London honey, courtesy of Andy Casson who keeps bees on the site.
The open days are held fairly regularly so keep an eye on the website or join the mailing list to be kept informed.
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.
December 2, 2010
The vast majority of vegetables we cultivate in the UK are annuals, or are grown as annuals, meaning that a seed is sown, the plant grows, flowers, fruits, sets seed and dies in one year. The problem for the gardener is that the whole process of sowing seeds, tending to seedlings and warding off slugs and other pests from young tender plants must be repeated the following year in order to get a new crop.
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