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In praise of tasty weeds. By Gillian Alexander


I was raised by a mother who was an internationally renown plants-woman, who could grow any plant she chose, even where it had no right to grow! In addition, she kept over half an acre of fruit and veg garden. I was brought up on an incredibly fresh and nutritious diet, and though this set the bar high, it also taught me well about growing good food.


When I bought my first house with a garden here, I set about growing all sorts of veg and planted a Cox’s apple tree and a Victoria plum. I live in Scotland and, apparently, this is too far north to grow Cox’s, but it’s always done well.

I always grew easy things that I enjoyed, like green beans, chard, potatoes and salad, and herbs like coriander and mint. The advantage of spuds and chard was that they tend to seed themselves, which I found that winter cress also does.

Then I got busy with my business, which has much to do with reminding my clients to be at ease with what is. And my garden weeded over… but… each year I would get some self-sown spuds, and would also plant any sprouted shop-bought ones that I had at the right time for sowing, and chard, garlic, cress and rocket that happily grew itself, as well as the fruit, including the apples, plums, Japanese wineberries and alpine strawberries. So, I mostly enjoyed tasty weeds!

This year, I got a bit more organised and planted more, including chard in rows, and potatoes from actual seed potatoes, ha ha, and lettuce and herbs such as dill, sorrel and coriander. My elderly neighbours gave me lettuce and parsley seedlings, and a friend gave me tomato and sweet pea plants, all raised in their greenhouses. And I bought some plugs of courgettes and beans.

Ironically none of the plugs came to anything, but they did give me the motivation to start growing again. And the main opposition I experienced was an invasion of rocket seedlings everywhere, which seemed to choke everything else out. But I gave loads of small plants away and then made jar after jar of yummy rocket pesto, so it never went to waste.

I was lucky enough to find the Food Community group on Facebook, which has been a persistent source of inspiration and motivation – so good to see folks growing so much yummy food and sharing tips.

I already have my seeds bought for next year’s growing, and will get the beans started early in the kitchen, and maybe ask my friend nicely if I can put some in one of her three greenhouses.

Two years ago, I was running a workshop at a Festival of Consciousness. There were folks from six different countries there ranging in age from 20 to almost 70. I asked for a show of hands of who grew up in a home where food was grown and most raised their hands. I then asked how many still grew their own food and there were hardly any raised hands.

No matter what or how much you grow, home grown will always taste best!


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