Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Take back control

I’ve been on a bit of a healthy eating binge these last few weeks. It probably started after a pretty nasty illness I picked up on my travels, which left me particularly under the weather.

Having wasted away for a few weeks (! Yes really), and then left craving for sugar and sweet things, I am now, more than ever, left with a strong desire to grow, pick, cook and bake just about everything I can.

Now if only time actually allowed us all to spend one day a week to grow and produce our own food, how much healthier would we all be? But whatever your resources we can all make a start. It’s time to take back the control.

Forget joining the gym. The garden and greenhouse gym is a much healthier place to exercise and all in the privacy of your own garden with your tea making equipment near by for instance sustenance.

Talking of tea, sorry I digress; a recent visit to Amsterdam has completely refreshed my love of mint tea. I drink fresh rosemary every morning, it’s a wonderful pick me up and tastes amazing. There’s a huge rosemary plant, (very well pinched out), by the back door in the herb garden. So I must admit mint tea had taken a bit of a back seat, I was delighted to find that several eateries in Amsterdam actually grew their own (mint) to make beautiful refreshing tea. So I have taken more cuttings from my Spanish mint plant and intend to bulk it up in pots so that I can drink fresh, organic mint tea on demand. Lovely.

Bread, grain and baking

I’ve been reading more and more about the chemicals used by farmers to raise their crops. Dozens of treatments are applied to much of our food before we eat them. One that I was unaware of was the practice of using the weedkiller Glyphosate to treat some wheat plants before harvest. It’s not done on all cereal crops and of course not all farmers employ this technique either, but how do you know? Apparently, Glyphosate is used to ripen the wheat so that the grains are ready to harvest more reliably. Good news for the farmer, but surely not good news for us?

Since my recent acquisition of a bread maker, it makes perfect sense to choose to buy organic flour and other organic ingredients (seeds and nuts) to make a high value loaf for a fraction of the cost. Even a ‘normal’ loaf tastes infinitely better (have you looked at the ingredients list on a loaf of bread recently?). I make a loaf every other day or so and we eat every scrap before commencing on the next bake. It feels very reassuring to be back in control of everything that goes into our daily bread.

Back to the garden

With our own happy hens laying a few eggs each day, a ready supply of local wild forage, plus whatever is ready to eat in the garden and greenhouse, the spring diet is easily boosted by extra vitamins, minerals and nutrients. A vat of soup is ready to heat up most of the time and all the vegetable juices and leftovers end up in the mix to create either a really Image 2 - Apr 2016rich and tasty stock for cooking with, or for some delicious soup.

This week a generous harvest of fresh nettles, Babington leek, corn salad, kale and a little wild garlic has added a real fresh green richness to the mix and also allowed me to make a large pot of nettle and walnut pesto for fast food menus when working or gardening late into the evening.

Growing your own is more than just about flavour and health. It’s about preserving the ancient skills and techniques of gardening. It’s about being more self-sufficient and reducing the distance that your food is transported – no air miles or road miles when you grow your own food. And it’s about being outdoors and connecting with nature.

Even if you just have a window box of herbs or a pot of salad, choose the healthiest way to grow it and choose to garden in tune with nature. Don’t dress your vegetables, fruit and herbs with a toxic salad dressing of sprays and chemicals. Save your money and effort and save your health too. The bees are already giving us a message that our environment is not the safe place it used to be, look carefully at what you are eating, ask questions about how your food is grown, but where possible grow and make your own food, so you can take back control over your diet.