Stepney City farm shares gardening tips

Pic: Billy Styles

Gardening at home is trending as lockdown heads into its 51 day, with compost selling out and online tutorials gaining large audiences.

Head gardener of Stepney City farm, Billy Styles, tells EastLondonLines which seasonal vegetables and greens can be grown in back gardens, which recipes they can be used for and how gardening can have a positive effect on mental health.

“If you are looking to grow vegetables in your own garden, chard, kale, broad beans, lettuce, garlic chives, leeks, radishes and several oriental greens such as mizuna, rocket, sorrel, and shungiku are in season” says Styles. “And they are all easy to grow, as long as you’ve got good, healthy soil to plant the vegetables in”.

Styles says it is a good idea to start a compost from your own food waste, for those in need of good soil. “All you need is a small windowsill, and a small wormery, and then you can begin your own kit. You can be quite resourceful as long as you know what you’re doing, by for example adding nettles, comfrey, leaves once autumn comes around and of course your own food waste to your compost” he explains. Here is a simple guide to compositing: link.

Styles suggests some simple ideas for cooking the vegetables once they are harvested. You can also keep an eye out on the farm’s Instagram for occasional recipe inspiration (link). There are also livestreams every Saturday at 2pm where Billy talks about everything gardening.

He says: “You could chop the kale and chard finely, and saute them in a pan with garlic chives and broad bean tops, and then reduce the greens down with some soy sauce and black pepper. Add a little tahini and olive oil when your vegetables look about ready for a thicker consistency, and you have a really nice filling for pita bread or to accompany some noodles.”

Shredded and sautéed chard and kale with sorrel and rocket hummus and salad and edible flowers. Pic: Billy Styles

“Using tahini, chickpeas and sorrel you could also make your own hummus. Sorrel has a very lemony flavour, which gives the hummus a really fresh flavour”.

Styles also believes gardening can impact positively on mental health.

He says: “Being outside is always going to make you feel more connected, rather than spending a lot of time on social media or on screens. I see this time as a chance to be more creative, to nurture something and to become aware of our consumption and what we actually need”.

For those lacking the time to start up a mini-garden but who live close to Stepney City Farm, they offer take-home boxes of their fresh vegetables during isolation: link.

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