Sara Venn of Incredible Edible Bristol recently hosted a free webinar as part of the #BristolFoodKind campaign, looking at practical ways to grow food using the things you have around you at home. Read Sara’s blog post about how to get started and watch back the webinar for more tips and ideas.
There’s a wide belief that in order to grow food, you need a large garden, and that’s one of the myths we are keen to dispel at Incredible Edible Bristol. Whether you have a garden, an allotment, a balcony or a windowsill, everyone can grow something to eat, all year around. On the Incredible Edible Bristol Instagram, we are showing plenty of tips and hacks on growing, including growing salads – with no garden necessary!
It’s also important not to assume that you need to buy lots of equipment before you start. In reality, you can start with nothing more than small bag of peat-free compost, the seeds from your spice jars or your dried pulses that are already in your cupboards, or the seeds you put on your porridge. These are all quite likely to germinate and give a crop of microgreens – those small, “cheffy” leaves we get in restaurants and cafés, and which, while they won’t feed us exclusively, add a really rich, nutrient-dense hit to our food. To grow these, a plastic tray from a supermarket, or a takeaway container, with holes added to the bottom, a layer of damp kitchen roll, and a sprinkling of seeds, regularly misted, will give you a crop in two to three weeks and if you sow regularly, you’ll get a succession of crops for very little.
Often we get asks about how best to engage children with food growing and this is one of the best ways. A crop on a windowsill that is seen every day and that grows quickly is a great intro to where food comes from, and there are all sorts of experimentations with tastes that can be played with. Most leaf, herbs, onions, peas, nasturtiums, sunflowers and cabbage family crops can be grown as microgreens and harvested young for a taste-hit of whatever species they are. For children, it offers the opportunity of trying things that are tiny and that they’ve had a hand in growing, and it’s a proven that – as our friend Ron Finley says – “children who grow kale, eat kale!”
Alongside growing food, we can also all look at our food waste and make a conscious effort to, as food growers, create our own compost. For some, we know this sounds like an impossibility, but if you don’t have room yourself, why not try to get together with some neighbours and create a community composting space? Or consider a wormery, another great way of connecting children with their food and growing. If you go back and watch the webinar there’s a section on turning an old bin into a small compost bin and while you won’t create lots of compost you will certainly have enough to mulch some pots or window boxes. And, with a little patience, you can also create houseplants from food scraps.
If houseplants are your thing, there are plenty of edibles that are great as houseplants. Chillies, tropically grown herbs and spices such as lemongrass, ginger, citrus fruit and avocados are all plants that can be grown from items in your kitchen, or which can be bought easily online. These are not just edible, but are also beautiful, calming and generally fairly easy to look after. Chilli plants can be grown from the seeds of chillies from the greengrocers, and oranges and lemons, avocados and even mangoes are always interesting to grow from a pip. Or you could try a pineapple which can be grown by placing the top leaves in compost and leaving in a sunny spot.
But whatever you decide to do, take it slowly and one step at a time, read loads about your experiments and don’t give up if it goes wrong. Just try again. Growing food should be fun, and there is nothing better than taking a mouthful of your first crop each year, in the knowledge that you grew it! Happy growing!
Watch Sara’s webinar and the other #BristolFoodKind webinars in the series. The next #BristolFoodKind webinar will take place at 12:30 on Wednesday 1st July and is all about making the most of the food you have in the house with handy storage tips, clever recipes and loads of other tips to save from having to throw any food away!
Read Sara’s blog post about how the city can keep the momentum going to upscale and increase urban food production post-covid.
#BristolFoodKind is a collaboration between Bristol Green Capital Partnership, Bristol Food Network, Bristol City Council and Resource Futures. See our #BristolFoodKind food waste highlights, grow your own highlights and support local food highlights.