I've just, come back from an amazing day trip out to the Sarah Raven gardening and cookery school, where I've spent today learning about growing vegetables all year round. Excuse me if I sprout effusively for the next few paragraphs, as I started the day thinking that I knew a lot about vegetables, and have ended up knowing that I've got lots more to try and I'm really excited about getting on with it.
Sarah Raven has always been one of my plants growing heroines. For those of you not familiar with the sometimes Gardeners World presenter, She is famous for knowing about cutting garden plants and dahlias and gardens in skirts, fabulous boots and big woolly jumpers and still looks cool. It was reading her book - The great vegetable plot, (recommended to me about 5 years ago) that really got me started about thinking which vegetables I should be growing as a busy mother with little time and space.
Today's course, had a good smattering of all ages and range of ability of gardeners and was aimed at letting us know about Sarah's philosophy of growing veg. Her thoughts are that a crop is viable because of the amount of harvest (measured in colanders) that they give you from a 1m square space, because they can't be found in the shops or because they taste huge amounts better when grown in your own garden.
The morning started off with dash for the School early club and then onto the M25 for my Journey to Perch Hill farm in East Sussex. This was at least two hours from home and is the the longest commute I've done in years, so by the time I got there I was very grateful for the cup of coffee waiting for us.
The garden and cookery school is based in a building on a hillside at The farm. It has a shop selling a good range of the Sarah Raven seeds to tempt you as you come in which leads through to the conservatory. This is where we had our lunch and there were fabulous views of the surrounding countryside and the swirling snow that accompanied our visit today. The classroom behind the conservatory, was high ceilinged with good natural light through the roof windows.
The day course was a mixture of information from Sarah about the vegetables she has trailed and grown over the years, explanations of why they were successful and how to get the most from your plot, Photos and demonstrations of how to grow seeds, plus explanations of successional sowing and companian planting.
Just before lunch we got to taste a range of the fantastic winter lettuces that she grows at Perch farm, and this was such a wonderful idea to be able to contrast and compare the Mizuna, Mibuna, Rocket, Mustards, and milder lettuce leaves (we had 10 in total to taste).
Lunch was one of the high points of the day, with a Chickpea and Kale Curry accompanied by a grain like couscous and tomato and chilli chutney with a flatbread - all delicious. This was followed up by Rhubarb tart, which has made me realise that i've been wasting the rhubarb hiding behind my greenhouse.
in the afternoon we learnt more about the plants that are unbuyable - i.e different coloured like purple carrots and yellow and purple bean, and did a plan of planting for a small vegetable garden.
We also had a walk round the farm to see how they had laid out their (raised) beds. This for me was great as the spaces weren't enourmous and although they were obviously growing for feeding guests at the garden school, it was easy to see how it could be done in a normal size garden.
For me this was a fantastic day out, A wonderful birthday present (thanks Ashley) and an inspiration for my veg growing for years to come. - Next Winter, i'll be making my own Chickpea and Kale Curry.