In these last sunny days of autumn on the south coast of England, I’m staring at plants still laden with tomatoes as well as shelves full of picked tomatoes, and my freezer is already heaving with homemade tomato soup and tomato & basil pasta sauce (enough to see me through any winter / brexit / zombie apocalypse that may be upon us). And I can’t stand waste. So it’s time to get a big pot of water on to boil for operation ‘blanch, peel and freeze’ - which is a lot less faff than it sounds to be honest, because you don’t actually ‘peel’ these fruits, you just help the skin slide off. It’s is a great way to preserve and store tomatoes for up to a year, to use in any recipe where you would normally use canned tomatoes or fresh ripe ones - curries, chillies, casseroles, ratatouille etc.Read More
Five years ago, we were standing outside in my back garden hoping to see the fly-past of the International Space Station (ISS) - it did appear, and so did a very unexpected bat.
'Our' bat has appeared at dusk every year now during the spring and summer months, looping and figure-of-eighting around the trees that grow in the back gardens of my road, from dusk till dawn. In fact there are 'bat corridors' between the backs of houses and trees. But there are challenges ahead for these beautiful, tiny animals.Read More
It's been a while since I checked into the Urban Life Blog, and there have been some noteworthy developments in the densely built-up area of Fratton in Portsmouth. Some are hopeful, in the sense of wildlife sightings; but conversely some human actions - specifically around tree felling and poorly-timed 'cutting back' - could end up being pretty catastrophic if carried on indefinitely.Read More
We have a small garden in Fratton , Portsmouth, in the heart of a very densely-packed urban area. I started this blog to chart our year, loving urban wildlife, growing herbs, fruits and vegetables, and cooking & eating what we grow.
From the end of April until the beginning of July, we had mixed weather - some of it stormy, some of it hot - yet everything survived and grew.Read More
"This was a dilemma for us. The only circumstance where it's appropriate to rescue a wild bird is when it's injured and there is danger nearby - and this little bird was most definitely injured, still flightless, next to a main road and at the mercy of cats, dogs, foxes, rats, people and traffic."Read More
And now it's April, and it's warmer and there's a lot more sunshine. The garden is starting to come together through a combination of elements -- human input (digging a bit, tidying, planting), the plants themselves (some growing back, some being planted fresh from seeds), and the appearance of birds, insects and other essential creatures.
Just in the past two weeks, the garden has seen bluebells flower under the apple tree and birds zoom in and out, and completely transform the colours and tone of this small space. Not bad for a garden in one of the most densely occupied urban environments in Europe.Read More
It's the beginning of March. Chives, mint and other herbs are showing an interest in poking their heads up though the earth for a whole new season. This is a good time to tidy the garden, including weeding all the pots and preparing for the year ahead.
The garden looks a bit rough at the moment, but we'll spend a couple of weekends in March when the weather's picked up a bit, and get it fully tidy and ready for us to start planting. Starting from scratch? Read on ...Read More
It's easy to grow your own hot chillies in England if you know what you're doing, and sometimes even if you don't.
They taste amazing, transforming food and giving you a feel good factor, and you can easily grow up to a hundred chillies or more each year from a few plants in pots or the ground. They preserve very easily - you can freeze them chopped or whole, and they can also be pickled in vinegar or dried.
Chillies taste fantastic in so many dishes, and I've included the recipe for the Hot Chilli Jelly Jam that was featured in the opening post of this UrbanFood blog. This can be eaten as a relish with cold food, or be used as part of a dish, eg coating ribs, chicken or roasted vegetables, for an extra flavorsome sticky kick. At the bottom of the page I've also included recipes for vegetable noodles, and glazed ribs.Read More
This blog is about food - about avoiding waste, and about growing, harvesting, processing, preserving, storing, cooking and eating.
Ever since I researched Roman agriculture as part of my PhD, I've been fascinated by what herbs and crops it's possible to grow successfully in Britain, and how they can be processed, stored and prepared. So I've decided to use these Roman roots to write a series of posts about growing food - herbs, fruit and vegetables - in urban settings such as small gardens in Britain.
My house is in Fratton, Portsmouth. Its disadvantage is that it's in a very densely populated urban area, and the garden is small. Its advantage is that it has a garden at all, part of the Victorian legacy of builders and city planners with foresight and the desire to reflect the needs of the occupants. The shipyard workers and their families that these houses were built for, in terraced street after terraced street, in places like Fratton in the 1880s, would have an outside space for a washing line, a privy and simply for having a bit of garden. The privies have gone, though washing lines remain kept aloft on tall poles that sway when the storms come in off the Solent. And we have these amazing spaces where - if we don't concrete them over - we have ready-made soakaways (which help prevent surface flooding) and growing areas. You can plant straight into the earth, or use pots, trays and all sorts of recycled containers.Read More