Posts Tagged ‘grow your own’

Guest Blog from Kate at Veggiedesserts; Chocolate Courgette Tray Bake

Pudding as well?

Pudding as well?

What a year for courgettes! They seem to all be absolutely enormous and the gardeners and allotment-holders that I speak to seem to be at a loss as to do with them all.

My 1 year old daughter chose to carry a large yellow one around like a dolly, occasionally waving it out of the window or taking a bite, but I’m sure most people have been making soup, stuffing them, making more soup, roasting them and storing excess in the freezer.

By this time of year you may be getting a little tired of them, but don’t consign them to the compost heap just yet – how about putting them into chocolate cake? More dessert recipes with courgettes and other vegetables are at

Kate x

Chocolate Courgette Tray Cake Yields 16

CourgetteChocolateCake 150g raw courgette
225g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
75g unsweetened cocoa powder
½ teaspoon salt
85g vegetable oil
200g granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs
150ml plain natural yogurt
Powdered icing sugar, to dust

Preheat the oven to 175C and lightly grease a 9” square baking tin.

Grate the raw, unpeeled courgette and set aside.

Whisk the flour, baking powder, cocoa and salt together in a bowl.

In a large bowl, beat together the oil, sugar and vanilla. Then beat the eggs in, one at a time, followed by the yogurt. Stir in the grated courgette.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir to combine.

Spoon the batter into the prepared tin for 30 minutes or until the centre springs back slightly when touched.

Allow it to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with sieved powdered icing sugar and cut into squares.


Guest Blog: Plan Your Polytunnel, and Pay Dividends in Produce

A big welcome to Lucy at the Smallest Smallholding. It is fantastic to see food growing on a small scale with enthusiasm for quality and often unusual food. We need more people like Lucy to get out and about and show how growing food is good for the soul, health, and wealth with our Crop for the Shop scheme. So here’s Lucy:luce_yoko2

Here at The Smallest Smallholding – a domestic, backyard project aimed at living a bit of the good life – we have invested in a modest 10ft polytunnel to not only give our vegetable harvest, a much-needed boost, but to also help create conditions that will allow us to expand on the range of fruit and veggies that we currently grow. For instance, sweet potatoes – commonly important from the USA and farther afield – prefer moist, warm conditions that are difficult at best to replicate outside of a polytunnel in our mild UK climes.

For years, I’ve coveted fruit and veg that thrive in warmer climes– so when our tunnel is finally in action, I’m looking forward to the prospect of adding the likes of sweet potatoes, Italian cucumbers, more peppers and cucurbits to the mix. We also hope to extend our growing season either side of the frosts in early Spring and late Autumn, making us just that little bit more self-sufficient throughout the year.
But thanks for a prolonged period of hot, dry weather, there were a few weeks this year when we were unable to get a fork in the ground. Our sandy soil has a tendency to turn virtually rock-like in such conditions, and so we have faced a delay in getting the polytunnel up over the summer as originally planned. It has, however, given us a little extra time to tweak our plans and do a little bit of research, which will hopefully pay in dividends when it comes to harvesting our polytunnel produce. So here are some simple, rudimentary (but important) tips to consider if you’re thinking of investing in a polytunnel of your own.

Siting Your Polytunnelpolytunnel1

Although preferable, your polytunnel doesn’t have to be sited on flat ground. If being sited lengthways down a slope, as long as the polytunnel hoops are level on both sides and the incline relatively steady, positioning the tunnel down a slope shouldn’t present any problems. If you’re erecting a polytunnel sideways down an incline, then things become a little more complicated and it’s probably best to opt for some professional advice ( have a wealth of knowledge about such things!).

Next, it’s time to think about orientation. East to west offers exposure to sunlight all day – great if you want to grow veg that requires the same conditions all year round, as the temperature inside the polytunnel tends to stay more even throughout the day. However, if you want to grow a variety of fruit and veg with differing growing preferences, you can opt for a north-south positioning on your plot, as the northern end will offer cooler conditions, with the southern end warming up much more.

You should also think about the strength and direction of prevailing winds – we are lucky in that our patch is enclosed by fencing, and various types of hedging, so strong gusts of wind aren’t an issue. But in more open spaces, it’s best to locate your polytunnel closer to hedges and natural wind breaks (with at least 3ft clearance either side), to prevent any damage from stronger winds. However, bear in mind that it’s not ideal to site your polytunnel close to overhanging tree branches, especially those that drop their leaves. This is because the leafmould, sap and honeydew from insects feeding on the trees can cause all kinds of problems and mess with the polytunnel cover, causing you more work in the long run!polytunnel4

Lastly, consider how your polytunnel will be fixed; with foundation tubes on softer ground, you can opt for anchor plates, which need to be dug into the ground before construction begins. On hard ground, the foundation tubes can be fixed and bolted directly to the hard surface. If space is an issue, then base rails will be a necessity, as they won’t require a trench to be dug out around the perimeter of the polytunnel to secure the cover.

Take all the above into consideration before you get building, and the chances are that you’ll face a much smoother construction process… at least, that’s the theory!

Polytunnel photos complements:©

Seasonal Super Food: Courgette

Eat the flowers or fruit

Eat the flowers or fruit

According to Natural-Home Remedies, zucchini is full of nutrients, good for the heart, prevents an enlarged prostate and has anti-inflammatory properties to help with pain. The copper in this fruit also aids in treating arthritis issues. As an added bonus, this fruit can be consumed entirely: the fruit, the plant and the flowers.

So if your courgettes are starting to take over the veggie patch don’t give them away get healthy with a bit of creative cookery! You can fry with garlic, roast, slice for the BBQ, chutney, boil, make in to ratatouille, use in soup, or a stew. And if pleased with you efforts please film your culinary expertise and add your video to our KIS Cookery section.

Rip off food industry will continue until consumers reconnect with producers?

I noticed fresh onions in the supermarket yesterday priced at the equivalent of £2,000/ton, yet my cousin only got £130/ton for his crop of onions. This is fantastic example of how the modern food industry favours the middle men and retailers, not the farmer, or, in these austere times, consumer.

In the case above; are consumers and farmers being ripped off? Are english onions not in season yet, (or do not store until July)? Or is there a world shortage? If I, as a farmer, don’t know, what chance does the average consumer have?

The modern, national, food industry, does not want us to know. They simply provide us with all kinds of foods all the time, via imports and slick supply chains then charge us as much as possible. Some might ask what am I complaining about? I could still buy fresh onions and the price was clearly labelled.

The BigBarn local food map

The BigBarn local food map

My problem is that the national food industry is paying UK farmers very little and consumers are paying too much. We are offered a massive selection and one stop shop, but completely separated from where our food comes from, what is in season, and good value. And with continual marketing telling us we are too busy to cook, more consumers are buying fast food and ready meals and have no interest in cooking healthy seasonal vegetables.

Once I had priced the supermarket produce I dropped in to my local grower and bought a bag of beetroot, spinach, broad beans and lettuce for £1.80

So, to save money, eat well and be healthy, use the BigBarn map to reconnect with your local food producers, ask questions to get ‘the knowledge’ and celebrate the season’s bounty.

BBC; Cheese is from plants, chips grow on trees!

A survey reported by the BBC shows an alarming lack of food knowledge. But hardly surprising when the modern food industry and retailers have separated consumer from producer. Why should a child know whether potatoes are grown underground or up a tree when they rarely see food production or are not taught about food at school?

Most of the fields around me at the moment are either yellow with oil seed rape or green with wheat, and look nothing like the food on my plate. I expect most goes to feeding animals in intensive ‘factory’ farms, also hidden from the consumer.

It seems unlikely that we will return to the days when small mixed farms surrounded housing, so bringing food growing and cooking in to the curriculum, like the school in the report, is a fantastic idea.

School Crop for the Shop on BBC

School Crop for the Shop on BBC

The school project we ran showed how enthused children are when given the opportunity to learn and interact with growing and cooking food. After all, we eat 3 times a day and have the primal urge of hunger.

So Victorian food for History, designing food labels for Art, seed rates for Maths, growing plants for Biology, must make each subject more relevant and easier to learn. Add to this the incentive of making some money by selling any excess food through BigBarn’s Crop for the Shop scheme, and we may see the next generation enjoying healthier food and saving the NHS a fortune. Perhaps even see a new generation of farmers?

Grow your own and Crop for the Shop

1942 Poster

1942 Poster

Grow your own is growing in popularity. Even the government are now telling us to Grow our own to avert food shortages.

In these austere times should we all start growing our own to save money? Or is growing food more about enjoying the satisfaction of planting a seed and slowly watching it turn in to delicious food?

At this time of year asparagus is the god of fresh vegetables and a shining example of how quickly a food can spoil as time passes after picking. Sweetcorn is the same, my friend Nick insists that his wife has the water boiling before picking his corn, and removing the husk as he runs back to the kitchen!

Really fresh sweet corn

Really fresh sweet corn

This is the kind of passion and enthusiasm we Brits need to feel about our food, and I am sure that growing food helps. Certainly the project we ran with a primary school proved this, with kids who said they hated vegetables munching on raw carrots they had grown. Click here for the video.

At BigBarn we are keen for everyone to have a go at growing food and even start trading it locally with our Crop for the shop scheme. All part of our mission to build a social, LOCAL, food industry, as an alternative to the anti-social national one, that gives neither producers, or consumers, a good deal.

bean pole wigwam There is no doubt that by cooking and eating fresh fruit and veg, half this country’s population would become more healthy, and save money. Seasonal vegetables are normally very reasonably priced compared to a ready meal, or imported food, especially if sourced locally.

A home baked potato could cost around 5p compared to a McCane ready made one, in a box, for 50p. Likewise a soup made from chopped mixed veg and some stock cubes will be a fraction of the cost of tinned soup and much more nutritious.

BigBarn Local food map with icons & rosette flag

BigBarn Local food map with icons & rosette flag

Growing veg can also kindle some artistic flair like my bean pole wigwam made from willow poles pruned from a local overgrown willow tree.

So there are now 4 reasons to grow your own; save money, get healthy, get enthused and artistic accolade, and, make money by selling your veg through local shops.

To find these shops look for icons marked with a rosette on BigBarn, if your local food shop is not flagged with a rosette, or not on BigBarn, please tell them all about us.

Time to grow your own to avoid horse meat

Family Farm Shop

Family Farm Shop

The recent horse meat scandal has made most people realise that the only food you can really trust is local or home grown. Local because the producer will tell the truth about the food they have grown, because their local reputation is at stake. And home grown because you have watched it grow and waited patiently for that, just right, day when you can proudly show the family the fruits of your labour.

So now is the time to get organised for this year’s crops, and even make money on any excess produce through BigBarn’s Crop for The Shop scheme.

Most green fingered veggie growers will already have their veggie patch dug over with rotted down compost adding nutrients to the soil. They will have seed trays in the green house, or window sill, sprouting tiny plants ready to plant out after the last frost has gone.


As an amateur grower my seed trays are sprouting mixed lettuce, beetroot, coriander and chard and getting a bit spindly on the floor of my office as they search for the sun.

This year I have opted to make life a bit easier by using Growrings, a ‘cheats’, raised bed. The rings arrived in the post as a flat pack and assembled by simply clicking together. I put some well rotted compost at the bottom and added some soil improver that was free from my local recycling depot then adding good fertile bought compost on top. This means I have a sterile, weed free soil to grow my veggies and can harvest without bending my back so far.


I have also opted for a green house Growring to help my plants get a head start and protect them from frost and pests. I also have some Poshcloches on my weed infested veggie patch to encourage some early asparagus and protect my chard from rabbits.

Now I just have to wait and hope the last frost is early this year, unlike 2012 when most of by beans were killed.

The BigBarn local food map

The BigBarn local food map

I also hope that my crops will be so successful that I will be able to sell some through a local ‘Crop for the shop‘ shop. To find them look for a rosette on icons on our local food map.

If anyone has some top tips to share please add them below. My tips are:

You can see a video and buy Growrings in our MarketPlace by clicking here. And Posh Cloches here;

For old, unusual, taste not shelf life, varieties of seeds here

And to learn about veg growing try You Tube videos