Browsing Tag


Food & Drink

I’m not eating that!

October 5, 2013

Several times over the years I’ve been helping gardeners, I’ve heard the phrase “I’m not eating that”  whispered by newbies when they’ve spotted vegetables they don’t like the look of. Indeed I probably said it myself in years gone by.

At the end of this post there are two purple salad recipes made from this unappealing little Brassica pictured below but in the meantime, I’m wondering how many of you would be put off eating food because of its initial appearance?

Red Cabbage

Real Food: Red Cabbage

Many of us have grown up with perfectly shaped vegetables. We’ve become so acclimatised to the unblemished offerings sold to us in supermarkets that we’ve forgotten what real food grown without chemicals and treatments looks like. Peter Donegan of The Sodshow highlighted Ugly Veg back in 2011 and featured interviews from potato growers sharing just how much food is thrown away each year because it isn’t the perfect shape or size.

I’m now wondering how many cabbages are sent to compost heaps because they have a few holes in them.

Other things like our vegetables too...

Slugs, snails and insects like our vegetables too…

The reality of growing our own fruit and veg using organic principles is that sometimes they might not look very attractive. Most of them attract slugs and snails which slither and slime their way over the vegetables, having a munch as they do so. Butterflies land on the undersides of leaves, lay their eggs which hatch giving the tiny caterpillars an instant feed. As they grow they eat and poop, eat and poop leaving dark green cabbagy droppings all over the plant until those sweet little baby caterpillars that my daughter is so intent on rescuing, grow into cabbage destroying demons that pupate and fly away.  Real food is often holey, mucky and a bit ragged looking.

Cabbage white caterpillar rests next to a pile of it's excrement

Cabbage white caterpillar resting on a leaf next to another covered in dark green excrement

But here’s an admission. When I first started growing veg in our garden I remember turning my nose up too. I’d harvest the vegetables then look to see what might be lurking in them. I’d gingerly pick the caterpillars or slugs off with my thumb and index finger, shivering as I did so, then slowly chew each cooked, leafy mouthful with the desperate hope that I’d cleaned them properly. If only our great grandparents could see us, I’m sure they’d laugh or feel despair even at how soft and pampered we’ve become in our detachment from food.

Luckily I’m no longer squeamish and our children are growing up recognising real food. Once slugs and caterpillars have wiped out an entire crop that’s taken months to grow, fussiness quickly evaporate. We’ve learnt from experience that when we peel off a couple of layers, underneath we’ll likely find a perfect vegetable. If not, a good scrub with a stiff brush in the sink will soon sort them out..

Which is what happened when I took a good look at my favourite variety of cabbage pictured above.

In fact there was so much unblemished red cabbage beneath its tattered outer leaves, it made two very pretty purple seasonal salads that you might like to try.

Red Cabbage & Beetroot Salad

Red Cabbage & Beetroot Salad

Red Cabbage and Beetroot Salad


Half a red cabbage, sliced into bite sizes pieces
A couple of cooked beetroot (bake in the over or boil until cooked), thinly sliced or grated
A few thinly sliced gherkins

6 tbsp oil, extra olive or organic rapeseed
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tbsp chopped dill

Place the beetroot, cabbage and gherkins into a serving bowl. Mix the dressing ingredients together until well combined then pour over.

Red Cabbage and Carrot Coleslaw Recipe

Red Cabbage Coleslaw Recipe

Red Cabbage & Cosmic Purple Carrot Coleslaw


Half a red cabbage, sliced and chopped into bite sized pieces
3 medium carrots, thinly sliced
1 onion
teaspoon wholegrain mustard
Mayonnaise (just enough to cover and bind everything, not swamp it.)


Mix all the ingredients together until thoroughly combined then season with freshly ground salt and pepper to taste.

So back to my original question, does it worry you how your vegetables look before they reach your kitchen?


Food & Drink, Lifestyle

Sunday Snap – Four vegetable birthday cake surprise

September 15, 2013

Dee's Cake

This really is a snap given there were people waiting to eat it! Today I’m sharing a lovely birthday cake surprise made by Mr G. The Carrot Cake is a Good Housekeeping recipe and the Beetroot and Courgette Cake as well as the Green Tomato Buns can be found on the blog.

(Just to put the size of this cake into perspective, here’s the carrot cake part of of it having just been presented to me.)

Dee's Birthday Cake

Food & Drink

Beetroot Chocolate Cake Recipe

August 3, 2013

Beetroot Chocolate Cake Recipe“Now what would you be doing putting a perfectly good beetroot into a cake..?”

A good question from a man who loves his beetroot roasted. Why would you put vegetables into a cake?

I’m not a food scientist in any shape or form but having baked and eaten several courgette, carrot and green tomato cakes over the years, I’ve observed how moist they are, that you don’t need to add as much flour and that there’s no hint of the usual vegetable flavour in them. What better way of using up a glut of vegetables too! Most of us enjoy eating a moist sponge and once someone has been told they’ve just demolished a cake full of vegetables it might perhaps be enough to encourage them to try eating the real thing. It’s worth a try isn’t it?

Once grown and eaten, beetroot becomes a super food, jam-packed full of healthy vitamins. It’s easy to grow too – just pop the seeds directly into the soil about 2cm deep and three months later voilà! We usually bake the roots and steam the tops but now and again it’s nice to try something different and I’ve been really looking forward to baking a chocolate beetroot cake ever since I tried a slice last year.

Beetroot Chocolate CakeChocolate Beetroot Cake

After much searching, the recipe I finally settled on is one adapted from a Nigel Slater ‘Dish of the Day’. This isn’t a cake to be rushed. Continue Reading…

Vegetable Garden

14 Vegetables to Grow In A Small Garden

May 11, 2013


Vegetables for a small garden

14 Vegetables to Grow in a Small Garden

“I don’t have much space, what are the best vegetables to grow outside in my small garden?”

This has been one of the most often asked questions which is encouraging as one of the first pieces of advice is start small! Why? Because you’re less likely to give up growing your own if you don’t take on too much at once.

You’ve installed a couple of raised beds, you’ve cleared a space for some veggies somewhere bright and sunny in your garden, or you’re even planning on planting vegetables among your flower borders or in containers; now you’re wondering what you might grow in your small vegetable garden that will give you the most return for your efforts. The following might help you take the next steps to growing vegetables in a small garden. Continue Reading…

Vegetable Garden

Wednesday Wiglers – Beet Leaf Miner

August 10, 2010

Beet Leaf MinerAnother pesky pest, this beet leaf miner was found on the beetroot at the Community Garden a couple of weeks ago.

This is one occasion where vigilance really is the only cure as there are no home-made remedies (or no approved insecticides) that will work on these little maggots.

Beet Leaf MinerYes …. maggots. These little white grubs will turn into the pupae of flies. They wriggle about (or mine, as their name suggests) between the internal tissues of the leaves and if left unchecked may have two life cycles in one summer.

They are attracted to beetroot, spinach and Swiss chard so crops will be ruined once infected (yuk, who wants to eat maggots with their dinner?).

So what can you do?

If you spot the Beet Leaf Miner early on you can remove the leaves of the infected plants and destroy them. If not I’m afraid your crop will be ruined.