Posts tagged ‘salad’

July 15, 2011

Cooking with flowers

by growingpeople

This needs little introduction. Flowers are the extra ingredient that turn food into a work of art – these species are all suitable for small spaces and containers, and perhaps with the exception of lavender, you’ll need to grow your own as you won’t find them in the shops. Cooking with flowers by its very definition will always mean eating fresh food in season, and their short growing period makes them all the more special.

Lavender shortbread, thanks to theurbanfoodie

Chive blossom on toast, thanks to thekitchn

Elderflower cordial with white dianthus flowers and a lovage stalk straw, thanks to eggsontheroof, the most elegant food blog around – I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Calendula petal and Borage salad, thanks to frenchrecipe

Carrot and nasturtium soup, thanks to stumptownsavoury

Pansy cookies, thanks to stonegable

Courgette blossom fritata, thanks to harmoniouskitchen

 

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July 10, 2011

Beyond lettuce

by growingpeople

Lettuce and lettuce-type things are among the easiest edibles to grow in containers and small spaces, but too often we stick to unadventurous species of Butterhead and Looseleaf, ignoring the multitude of more unusual (and better looking) leaves and flowers that can be used to make a salad.

Herbs, too, are frequently seen as simply a garnish and added in minute quantities that can barely be detected – but if chosen correctly, and combined with milder flavours, I believe that they can be a main ingredient. My favourite salad ingredients, container-grown in my Hackney garden include chard, parsley, chives, golden marjoram, nasturtiums, borage, baby spinach and lovage.

The selections below are all suitable for containers, can be sown now and taste much better than an iceberg.

I recommend Real SeedsWild Garden Seeds and Suffolk Herbs for sourcing seeds.

Lactuca sativa var. romana “Little Leprechaun”

 

Levisticum officinale (lovage)

Celery-like shoots, but a milder taste. The young leaves are one of my favourite salad ingredients.

 

Malva sylvestris (mallow)

The young leaves and flowers can be eaten raw. This is hardly worth growing as you can find it everywhere this time of year (Hackney-dwellers, try the marshes -there’s enough to feed the borough there).

 

Rumex acetosa (garden sorrel)

This perennial herb is mild enough to be eaten raw as a salad leaf.

 

Alliaria petiolata (garlic mustard)

As the name suggests, the leaves taste of garlic and mustard, are delicious in salad if you like that sort of thing, and grow in abundance in Hackney Marshes.

 

Allium ursinum (wild garlic)

One of my absolute favourites, growing abundantly in British woodland in February and March. Use the leaves and flowers in salad – they taste strongly of garlic, so use in addition to a milder leaf.

Trapaeolum majus (nasturtium)

Adds colour to the smallest of garden, grows in the poorest of soils and the leaves and flowers are delicious.

May 18, 2011

Vertical gardens

by growingpeople

I’ve spoken a lot about space saving vertical vegetable gardens already, but I’m coming across more and more ways of creating them that I’m eager to try. The beauty of these is just how many plants they can hold without encroaching on any of your limited floor space.

First, the recycled shoe storer by pippa5 on instructables. The pockets are deep enough to plant salads, spinach, flowers and herbs, but also tomatoes, strawberries, radishes and chard. The only way one of these ugly things should ever be used.

Next, the upright pallet garden by life on the balcony. The sides, back and base are lined with landscape fabric – a black porous materials made from natural synthetic fibers and available from garden centres – and the pallet is then filled with compost before being planted up. Leave the pallet lying flat for a couple of weeks to allow rooting to establish before positioning it upright.

I’m not sure about using this tin can garden for edibles as the metal may leach into the soil but these are perfect for planting flowers to attract beneficial insects. Punch a small holes in the bottom of each for drainage and staple-gun or nail them to a wooden fence.

And finally, not strictly vertical, or particularly productive for that matter, but oh so pretty, are Japanese artist Kochi Kawashi‘s “Manga Farms” – beautiful little sprout gardens inside recycled and water soaked comic books. You won’t get a massive crop out of them but such a novel way to grow a leaf or too. Kawashi has tried it with radish, buckweat, broccoli, rocket and basil.

April 17, 2011

Edible of the week: Borage

by growingpeople

It’s been many weeks since I’ve done one of these, but as I’ve just sown some in my garden it felt like a good choice to kick start the series with.

Borago officinalis is an annual plant and prolific self-seeder which can grow to 1m tall and just generally seems to take up a lot of space within very little time – perfect for filling up an empty space with colour. It’s a fantastic companion plant, both attracting beneficial insects and repelling the tomato hornworm. The leaves are rich in potassium, which is needed for fruiting, so it’s a good idea to use the leaves as a mulch around potassium-hungry crops such as tomatoes, peppers, courgettes and squashes. The leaves are also edible, but they are hairy and tough so best picked when young if being used in a salad (shred them finely in either case). They have a cucumber-like taste and were traditionally used in the preparation of Pimms before cucumber and mint became the norm.

The seed of the “Starflower”, as it is also called, is the highest known plant-based source of gamma-linolenic acid, an omega-6 fatty acid thought to be beneficial for the treatment of arthritis, eczema and premenstrual tension.  Hemp seed, Evening Primrose and Spirulina are among the other more well-known and widely-sold sources of the same substance.

Borage flowers are a curiosity in themselves as they start off pink, turn to blue in the mid-summer, and often revert back to pink as the summer draws to a close – the latter is thought to be the effects of UV on the flower. They work beautifully as a garnish in salads or cold soups, on cakes or frozen into ice cubes and added to summer drinks. Thanks to Eggs on the Roof for Gazpacho recipe and illustration.

March 31, 2011

Growing by numbers

by growingpeople

The British (or at least the writers at the Evening Standard) are fond of attributing monetary worth to the most unquantifiable of events, informing us for example that the magical London snow day in February 2009 in which every Londoner woke up happy and strangers said hello to each other in the street cost the economy £3 billion. It’s not surprising of course that in our society the media insists on this kind of “expert” analysis (or at least less surprising than the fact that the Royal Wedding will cost the British economy £5 billion), but I think there’s something inherently sad at the heart of it – as though nothing can ever simply just be, without having to be worth something in order to have a purpose (or lack of).

So for once I was pleased to read the article in this month’s Jellied Eel about the Tufnell Park resident Mark Ridsdill Smith who has calculated that he has grown £812 worth of fruit and vegetables on his balcony, measuring less than 3 square meters (that’s £270 a meter). Among the runner beans, courgettes, carrots and potatoes,  Smith grew the equivalent of 100 bags of salad, 92 supermarket punnets of tomatoes and 120 packets of herbs.

you won't find these in Sainsbury's

Gardening is certainly not something I started to do for the money, but in the great British tradition, I’ve succumbed to the fact that as well as reaping ecological and health benefits, it can provide you with massive  savings on your food bill. Or at the very least, a couple quid’s worth of parsley.

Smith details how and what he grew, with minimal space and an abundance of creativity as well as the “worth” of each of his harvests in his fantastic blog, Vertical Veg.

December 2, 2010

Edible(s) of the week: Perennial veg

by growingpeople

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.

November 14, 2010

Edible of the week: Nasturtiums

by growingpeople

Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) are a fantastic hardy annual (not to be confused with the genus Nasturtium, which includes watercress and is entirely unrelated).  Not only are the young leaves and flowers delicious and beautiful in salads (think rocket but more so), but you can also make “Poor Man’s Capers” from the seeds (real capers are the salted and pickled buds of the perennial caper plant, Capparis spinosa).

Pick the seeds before they’re ripe (they need to be bright green, not dark brown) and soak them in salted water (50g salt/450ml water) for two days.  (Do leave a few seeds to ripen fully so that you have more to plant next year or to give to your friends).

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