You can easily grow your own fruit and vegetables in your back garden in Muswell Hill.
This picture shows a small bed next to our lawn in the summer of 2008 on the northern slope of Muswell Hill. In the foreground is salad rocket, with strawberries in the middle and Italian Romanesque broccoli/cauliflower at the top with just a it of the pond behind. The rocket provided an endless supply of free tasty salad leaves for the whole summer and has the benefit of being unaffected by slugs or snails-perhaps the delicious, peppery taste is not to their liking. The intense yellow flowers attract honeybees and hopefully contribute to the taste of any locally produced honey.
By the end of 2008 the Romanesque broccoli had grown into lovely heads ready for harvesting and as well as being visually beautiful with the mathematically perfect Fibonacci pattern of florets was most delicious with a delicate flavour combining that of broccoli and cauliflo wer.
On the southern slope of Muswell Hill is our allotment plot next to the garden centre with Alexandra Palace the background and views over the London cityscape of Canary Wharf Millennium Dome (o.k. O2 centre), and the Gherkin building (yes I know some call it the Swiss Re or 30 St Mary Axe but this is about vegetables and how often can you find an edible name for a building?).
The allotment was a further source of fruit and vegetables and in May 2008 the potatoes were being tended and were growing happily in the rich soil. The local Muswell Hill soil has an abundance of clay which can be improved by the addition of compost and sharp sand. The clay provides a good source of minerals while the sand loosens the structure for better drainage and makes for easy digging. The organic matter from the compost provides further nutrients for the plants and helps to retain moisture while at the same time being a good use for your kitchen waste.
By July we had a huge crop of potatoes starting with Charlotte which are a delicious, waxy salad variety. Friends had
given us some spare seed potatoes of a new variety called “Vivaldi” which, as well as being delicious, grew to an enormous size and were ready to be harvested when the Charlottes had all been enjoyed.
Over the course of the summer and fall 2008 we had an endless supply of rhubarb, fresh raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, apples (Russet, Lady Lambourne and Blenheim Orange-a cooking apple), pears from our two pear trees in our back garden, Victoria plums, greengages, red beets, carrots, and snow peas.
The onion crop failed completely and worryingly this was the one bed for which I had bought some extra bags of compost. About this time articles appeared in the press about contamination of compost by herbicides and I was glad that most of my compost is home made. Both the back garden and the allotment plot are otherwise assiduously organic and have been for at least the past 14 years. We recycle all our garden and compostable kitchen waste in three compost bins-one is the usual type and two are modified from our old rubbish bins made redundant when Haringey council introduced the wheelie bins a few years ago. These work especially well after having a large number of small holes drilled in their bottoms to allow excess composting fluid to drain into the ground around the base of a pear tree. This provides a rich nutrient fluid for the tree along with a prime environment for an endless number of healthy looking worms which seem to have found their paradise in the black bins warmed by the sun.
By February 2009 we still had a great crop of parsnips which had the most delicious sweetness after the freezing weather in January. Our favourite method of cooking these was to parboil them for five minutes and then roast them in a hot oven after being drizzled with olive oil and turned a few times for lightly browned edges. Many friends and neighbours enjoyed our bumper crop.
Our runner beans have also provided a steady and generous crop of fresh runner beans which we enjoyed and shared widely as they ripened and long after from our freezer. We left some to dry on the plants for a few weeks and gained a good crop of dried beans which we harvested in the winter and stored in jars which are still providing delicious meals in February 2009.
Everyone in Haringey who has an interest in sustainable food is welcomed by the Sustainable Haringey Food Group at;