Homes & Gardens

Growing High Flavour Crops in the City

Neil Whitehead, urban food grower and founder of Seed Pantry, shows how easy it is to grow your own.

Growing to cook is the aim. A little of the best high flavour crops from small spaces around the house, that are easy to grow, is the magic ingredient for many of meal times. I like to produce ingredients for the kitchen from my London urban spaces in a small backyard and on the window sills.

Being short on time and space, the extremely rare luxury of allotments and the perception that food is mainly grown in rural locations, it’s hardly likely that any of us in the city grow our own food for regular meals. But this certainly shouldn’t put you off. A few well-chosen varieties that you really enjoy eating and you know will taste infinitely better when freshly picked or that can add spice, heat and great aromatic flavours to meals is certainly achievable and easy.

This season I will be growing high flavour crops that I know work well in urban conditions and trialling new varieties to provide top ingredients for fresh home cooking.

I’ll show you how to grow to some of my favourites for maximum flavours. First up are two great fresh ingredients to sow some seeds on your kitchen window sills:

PEAS: For early spring season greatness, that taste amazing straight from the plant, a dwarf mange tout or dwarf sugar snap pea, grown in pots, containers or mini raised beds with staked branches or canes for them to climb on.

HOW TO START YOUR SEEDS

Sow seeds 2cm deep and roughly 2cm apart in compost filled trays, homemade recycled containers, anything to hand really. Just pop a drainage hole in the bottom if there isn’t one already. Water them and leave to sprout in 7-10 days. Place on the window sill inside and keep the soil moist, so just a little water when the compost starts drying out.

More to follow next month, when we’ll be plant popping them outside…

You can pick up some peas in the mini summer box.

CHILLIES: I will be sowing seeds this month on the window sills inside and popping them in mini propagators, I’m growing apaches for a good crop of reasonably hot medium size fruits, I either freeze or dry these at the end of the season if I have plenty left and I’m trialling Habaneros which are extremely hot with great flavours for cooking and Navahos that produce long fruits and are great for stuffed chilli recipes.

HOW TO START YOUR SEEDS

Sow one or two seeds in small pots filled with compost (yogurt pots work!) or mini compost discs (no mess – brilliant!), or seed tray cells. Put cling film over them or pick up a mini propagator from us. Pop them on your window sills to germinate – this usually takes between 10 and 20 days.

Let them keep growing and more to follow next month…

You can pick up everything you need here in the starter pack or just search for the seed box.

Neil Whitehead is an expert urban food grower and advocates growing high flavour veg in small urban spaces. He set up Seed Pantry to provide an easy start for people wanting to bring fresh seasonal food to urban dinner plates by ‘greening up’ even the smallest of city spaces, turning food miles into food metres.

The Seed Pantry’s Summer Veg Seed kits include the above seeds and much more. Just visit www.seedpantry.co.uk to find out more.

March 2013