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You look at your 36 courgettes (6 were 'gifts' from fellow gardeners...), 109 carrots (all ready at once), potatoes that were intended to be large enough to be baked but are in fact a little smaller - more like new potatoes, kind of.... Your herbs are just flowing all over the place. Your Mint flavoured herbs (all 13 different flavours of them that you planted), have taken over the different Basil flavours, which in turn have fallen over your now bolting Parsley.... Your fellow allotmenteers have given you loads of tips on growing. They have also given you loads of their own spare veg (RUN, RUN, RUN from the spare courgette/carrot/cabbage man...). And have said things like 'lovely in a such and such sauce', 'great on the BBQ' etc.
You need to eat these ingredients. Yes, you see what you started off growing as seeds have now turned into FOOD. You've got all sorts of ideas from cookery books, BUT they require a million and one ingredients, many of which are not local, not seasonal, and not really that good value for money. Do you undo all the good that you've done for the planet by growing your own, by buying these additional ingredients the books call for?
The reality is that you don't really know how to cook a variety of flavours and vegetables and herbs! You have always been a microwave/ready meal/takeaway/bottled sauce type of person and this foray into Grow Your Own has been your start on a new way of life. Good for you! You have followed the trillions of bits of advice on the web/youtube/social media. You have sown, taken cuttings, potted on, potted up, planted out, watered, weeded, tended each seedling and plant with true love and commitment. And now you have a whole pantry of ingredients. Yes, a pantry. One of those old fashioned ones about the size of most folks' lounges.
If I now tell you that I once did some legal work for a group of allotmenteers and they confessed that most of them threw away or composted over half of what they grew, would you be surprised? I am not. Not any more. The most frequent question I get, after 'How do I cook with that herb as I don't really cook?', is 'Will that herb help me to cook my mountains of ingredients from my veg patch?'
It is NOT enough to grow our own food. We need to cook with it. We need to cook simply, quickly, without fuss, or too much trouble. We need good value food. We need easy food. We need tasty food. We need to know how to use up leftovers, how to preserve our excess ingredients, how to make the same ingredient taste different each and every day we use it.
Now, imagine a world where, down the allotments or in your neighbourhood, somebody says 'I had some spare courgettes, I made you some chutney with it as I guessed you had loads of courgettes yourself'. Or, even better, 'I made a lovely courgette and cheese bake, would you like to come over to my house/garden/allotment and share it with me?' 'And by the way here is the recipe - it is really easy. I can show you if you like.'. There are indeed some neighbourhoods like this. And they are fantastic!
I grew up in countries where people had very little. But there was always a pot of herbs or some spices at the door of the kitchen. And they always said, 'We do not have much. But what we do have, do share with us'. It stayed with me. It is why I grow AND cook. I teach people to grow on my courses but ALSO to cook. If I just showed them how to grow herbs, I would only be doing half the job. It is why when I sell a herb I give out an easy recipe booklet for that herb. Because I need to show them how to COOK with the herbs too. And how to use herbs to help them make a million and one different flavoured meals out of a million and one courgettes and carrots! Sharing ideas and advice when you grow your own is a very socially important action. But sharing food is the way to break down barriers, to combat loneliness and stress, to possibly even avoid war. Sound impossible? No. Take it from me. I have seen it happen. I have experienced it. Your excess courgette could actually make somebody's life so much better if you cook it and share it with them.
In my last blog, I said that when I sow seeds, I see food, meals, not just seeds. If you see a courgette when you sow that seed, that is a start. If you see a courgette curry, great. If you see a courgette curry you can share with somebody else - you've got it!
So, grow your own. Go for it. Do it. Share progress, hints and tips. Learn. Feel better and calmer for the process. But at the end of the day that is just the start... Get Cooking!