There's nothing quite like fresh produce straight from the garden. It was a big part of my childhood – my father Fred would come home from work each night and tend to his vegetable garden, offerings from which arrived washed and trimmed at the kitchen door, ready for my mother to cast her magic over them. It’s also a big part of the way my family lives today – I believe that home-grown, home-cooked food connects us in some small way to nature, which is why I place so much emphasis on it in my cooking and why I find it so satisfying to head out into the garden at the end of the day and choose something for the evening meal.
While not everyone has the luxury of space for a full vegetable garden, you’ll be surprised at what you can grow with limited room. Most herbs, for example, will grow in a sunny corner or window box, while a tomato plant or two or a few lettuces or strawberries will fit happily in a container box by your back door.
My current obsession is growing microgreens. These are salad greens or herbs that are harvested when they're only 2-3cm high. You can grow individual varieties or you can mix up the seeds when you sow them, which will give you fantastic mix-and-match microgreens with great colour, flavour and texture.
Microgreens take only a couple of weeks to grow in warm weather, so they're perfect if you're the kind of gardener who enjoys instant - or near-instant - gratification. Most seeds won’t germinate when the temperature drops below 15ºC, but that doesn't mean you can't grow them all year around - they take up very little space so you can easily grow them in pots on the kitchen windowsill. You can also put a clear glass or plastic cover over the top, which will act as a mini glasshouse and help them germinate.
To get them started, sprinkle organic seeds generously onto fine potting mix or seed-raising mix in a window box, seed tray or pot (one packet of seeds will cover an area of about 20 x 30cm). Cover with a thin layer of seed-raising mix and water gently each day.
In 3-6 days you’ll be rewarded with a tiny forest of green seedlings. Snip the leaves off with a pair of scissors when they’re 2-3cm tall, or wait another week or two and cut them when they reach 6-15cm. As long as you leave about 5mm they'll grow back again and you can get a succession of three or four harvests.