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Grow Your Own Wellbeing

Apparently, it’s Grow Your Own Wellbeing Week! TBH I’m not a big fan of special weeks or days because if something’s important to me I do it all the time but I do get the point. (As it happens, this Thursday is also Empathy Day and I’m involved in that. too.)

Disclaimer: this post is about me. Don’t unsubscribe on the basis of it because very soon I’ll be telling you about useful things like my next public webinars. Today, I’m not talking about brains or giving advice, just telling you about my veggies. Indulge me, please. I’ve scheduled the post for the minute I’m supposed to be having my second vaccine and, judging by my reaction the first time, I’m not expecting to feel 100% very soon…

If you follow me on Instagram you’ll know I’m a bit potty about my garden and especially my veg growing. If I didn’t have my veg garden I’d sit at my desk from 8.30am to 6.30pm or later every day so I’m not exaggerating when I say that it’s essential for my health, mentally and physically. And withstanding the devastations caused frost, storms, horrible May temperatures, cabbage white butterflies, slugs, greenfly, mice, and pigeons tests and strengthens my resilience. Witness the fact that every January I get out the seed catalogue and am enthused with optimism once more…

This year, I am growing the following (you’ll need coffee – I should probably grow coffee, actually):

Ten sorts of tomatoes, five sorts of cucumber, three sorts of aubergine, seven sorts of pepper – I’m sounding a bit Very Hungry Caterpillar here – French sorrel, wood sorrel, curly green and dark kale, six sorts of potato, broad beans, five sorts of pea, don’t know how many sorts of courgettes and squash, pak choi, kohl rabi, broad beans, flageolet, borlotto and three sorts of French bean, asparagus, globe artichokes, Jerusalem and Chinese artichokes, oca giggles, red and white onions, three sorts of carrot, celeriac, tree spinach, strawberry spinach and perpetual spinach, land cress, tomatillos, inca berries, earth chestnuts, mashua, radish, spring onions, mizuna, green in snow, good King Henry, chia, quinoa, shiso, chervil, rocket, mixed salads and these lettuces: lambs, little gem red and green, intred, four seasons, lollo rosso, iceberg (unintentionally) and something where the label has rubbed off. And an okra plant which I think is dying.

And that’s before I start listing either fruit or herbs – though I’d like to mention mace, sweet cicely, bergamot, lemon verbena, Japanese parsley, African blue basil and Vietnamese coriander. Some of those after being inspired by Mark Diacono of Otter Farm Nursery and Herb/A cook’s companion, which is my companion in the kitchen atm.

Herby zingy salad for a friend

How do I eat it all, I hear you say? Well, apart from avocados, which I can neither grow nor do without, we are self-sufficient in fruit and veg for many months of the year but I also give a lot away. My specialty is herby, zingy salads with edible flowers (seen left), which I love giving to friends or selling to raise money for our gardening group. Any time I’m invited to someone’s house, I’ll take produce and no one gets to cross the threshhold without taking something away.

And there are clever ways of dealing with excess, such as making strawberry leather:

Strawberry leather about to be dried

Trouble is, often I’m too busy to pick the stuff. Then I send out a message to my gardening group or others and tell them to come and pick their own.

Blitzing sorrel sauce

One of my favourite tastes is the zing of sour so sorrel occupies a whole bed in my garden and goes to make regular speedy sauces: just blitz a handful of leaves with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper and, optionally, add creme fraiche to make it creamy. Eat as you would pesto – hot or cold.

Research shows that looking at the green of nature has all sorts of benefits to mental health and mood so here are some pictures of my veggies, just for you. Well, really for me.

 

A good day’s harvest
Is it a cucumber or a zeppelin?
Padron peppers recreating Spanish holidays
Any idea why they’re called sweet million?
2020 was THE aubergine year – aiming for the same in 2021

Probably my most excited moment was lifting the leaf of an unlabelled brassica and finding this – weighing nearly 1.4kg! The fact that it was the only cauli that survived the rampaging cabbage white caterpillars is not something that helped my wellbeing…

If you grow your own wellbeing, you’ll identify with all of that. If you don’t, you’ll have fixed on the “rampaging cabbage white butterflies” and decided not to bother.

But if you’d like to start and don’t have much time or space, start with herbs and Mark Diacono’s excellent book.

#GYOforWellbeing

Have a good week, everyone. I hope you have sunshine where you are and that you are able to enjoy it even if you’re working.

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6 Responses

  1. Incredible Nicola! This is such an inspiring post. I really wish that our garden was bigger (our kitchen extension made our garden tiny) and that we didn’t astro-turf the garden as I can only grow things in pots now. I tried to grow tomatoes last year but they didn’t flower so I haven’t had much luck. I love the pictures you posted, especially the aubergines! I will check out Mark Diacano’s book

    1. Thanks, Jay! Hmmm, I wonder why your toms didn’t flower. The usual problem is they flower but the fruit never becomes ripe – and that’s usually caused by living too far north and not having enough growing season. (I lived in Edinburgh for nearly 30 years and although people in Scotland are fond of praising the long summer evenings this does absolutely nothing to translate into growing hours because the actual season of warmer ground and air isn’t long enough – the slightly lighter evenings are irrelevant! Toms do need sunshine and warmth and one problem comes when people put them outside too early and they get stressed by the cold so growth halts. Where do you live? it might be worth trying again – or it might not! Personally, I think if you’re short of space then herbs are THE answer – and they can flavour your food all year long, which homegrown toms can’t!

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