Gardening, Recipes

Container Gardening: steps to self-sufficiency!

I posted a while back about my very modest progress in the world of growing my own veg this year, and have achieved so much more since then I barely know where to start!

My biggest challenge was being unsure whether I had the space to plant very much: whilst we have access to a yard, it’s all concrete so we’re limited to planting in pots & containers, and there’s only so much you can grow in small spaces. Fortuitously, our landlord had some old palletes lying around, and used these to build two new planters (one for flowers to please the landlord’s aesthetical preferences; one for veg!). Not only did it feel great to minimise waste by reusing the old wood, but it massively increased the space we had availabe at home for growing and opened up opportunities to grow a bigger variety of goodies.

I’ve got a couple of rows of beetroot coming on strong, and a few carrots after a precarious start. I thought all the seeds had totally failed but it turns out it takes a few weeks for the seedlings to show, so with patience came reward in the end! You’ll see they’re interspersed with another type of plant; those are just flowers to help hide the carrots from the dreaded ‘carrot-fly’ pest. I’m experimenting with a few different varieties of carrot: the ones you see here will be purple, and just today I’ve planted a fly-resistant variety to fill the gaps and Amsterdam variety which grow well in small spaces in their own little pot. Watch this space for more on how they all do!

I also love the makeshift greenhouse, which takes up limited space and offer a chance to grow things that love heat even in the most basic of gardens. We’ve got some lettuce, cucumber and pepper plants in there at the moment. I’m particularly excited to see how the peppers do and thankful that I was donated the plants by a friend!

In other news, our tomatoes are coming on amazingly well. They’re really strong and lots of flowers have appeared already. Again the space available is confined by keeping our landlord happy with how things look, so it’s nice that the plants can sit in a nice neat row along the fance. They’re joined by my 2 surviving strawberry plants and a blackberry bush, as well as my beloved herb wheel. I love using fresh herbs from outside my door in cooking! My favorite is this green hummus recipe, which is bursting with lovely summery flavours.

I also have some other great recipes up my sleeve for home-grown veg, which I can’t wait to show you once the fruits of my labour start to materialise. As a teaser, here’s a picture of my bangin’ beetroot burgers (made with shop-bought on this occasion!), which I’m super excited to share the recipe for when I’ve got my own beetroot from the ground. You’ll have to take my word for it for now, but honestly, it’s SO GOOD, you don’t want to miss it! Follow the blog to keep up to date and be the first to see new recipes when they land.

Are you growing veg yourself or hoping to start? I’d love to hear from you! Post in the comments to share your story 🙂

eco friendly products, Recipes

Making my own snacks to save on waste!

I love making my own tasty, clean and eco-friendly sweet snacks, which is both healthier for me and reduces the amount of packaging I have to buy and dispose of! I’ve enjoyed experimenting with some fun energy ball flavours these last couple of weeks… Let me know if you’d like to see recipes and be sure to follow me for updates when they drop!

Crunchy Nut bites
Chewy date, nut & oat bars
Dark chocolate, apricot & pistachio balls
eco friendly products, Plastic Pollution

Introducing my favourite eco-friendly household items

When it comes to making eco-friendly choices, I find household items are one of the most challenging things. So many of the basic things we use in daily life – like toiletries and cleaning products – generate a lot of plastic waste and other environmental issues. From growing natural sponges to recyclable toothpaste tubes, slowly I’m discovering an array of products that are helping me overcome those problems. I’d like to share a few here and hope you’ll share some back!

Eco-friendly toothpaste

I have to admit, I was devastated a few years ago when I found out that my favourite toothpaste – the kind that has ‘micro-crystals’ in it to get your teeth squeaky-clean – was full of plastic. Exactly the thing I loved about it was tiny bits of plastic that ended up in the sea causing all sorts of harm to the animals who unwittingly ingested it. Disappointedly and dutifully, I immediately stopped using this type of toothpaste, but have continued to be bothered by the non-recyclable packaging that toothpaste inevitably comes in.

That is, until yesterday. I’ve recently been pleased to see charcoal toothpaste becoming fashionable – yes, it’s overpriced and gimmicky, but at least it’s more natural than plastic – and was hunting for the best-value version I could find, when I spotted Colgate’s Smile for Good toothpaste in fully recyclable packaging! I was embittered to find it was a good deal more expensive than other basic toothpastes (aside from all the fashionable whitening varieties and so on), but my moral compass told me I had no choice but to buy it now I knew it was on offer. i do feel happier knowing I’m now empowered to make such a choice, and have also been enjoying Colgate’s bamboo/charcoal toothbrushes. Well done, Colgate!

New recyclable packaging from Colgate

Coconut scrubbers

Coconut scrubbers & scourers seem to have made a mini-explosion in the cleaning products market, and it’s easy to see why. Over the last few months, I’ve been using an EcoCoconut scourer for the first time, and it’s excellent. They’re naturally antibacterial, which is an obvious plus for washing your dishes, and are also highly effective at scrubbing whilst also being non-abrasive, so they won’t ruin your pans. My dishes are clean and I’m no longer sending endless little bits of micro-plastic down the drain from a traditional scourer: it’s win-win!

Lush shampoo bars

When I talk about shampoo bars, friend often instantly retort that ‘they’re no good; they make my hair greasy’. Now, I’ve personally never used any shampoo bar other than Lush – I’ve never needed to because they’re so good – but have also heard friends say Lush is the only shampoo bar that doesn’t make their hair greasy. In other words, if you think you don’t get along with shampoo bars but haven’t tried the Lush ones, do it. They are, in short, amazing.

Not only are there obvious benefits of the plastic-free nature of this solution, but I find this stuff is just so good for my hair. I don’t need to wash it as often as I used to, and my bar of choice – Honey I Washed My Hair – is so softening I don’t even need conditioner. What’s more, their solid nature makes them easy to travel with and you can buy a handy tin or cork holder to transport them in. Brilliant!

Natural sponges

This could be a bit of a wildcard, but this year I’m attempting to grow my own sponges! We were offered a luffa plant (or loofah – same thing different spelling!) and jumped at the chance. This is the plant that the well-known back-scrubbing device luffa comes from. It’s a vine plant that produces fruit of a cucumber-type shape which, once dried out, can be used for various purposes such as slicing to use as sponges or scourers. I’ve read they can be a bit tricky to grow so will be interested to see how it pans out. I’m really excited to be giving it a go as it combines my newfound love of self-sufficiency through gardening with my passion to reduce waste from packaging. Watch this space!

Over to you…

What are your favourite eco-friendly household items? I’d love to hear from you so we can all learn from each other. Share your thoughts in the Comments and be sure to follow the blog if you’d like to keep up with my antics. Until next time!

Gardening, Recipes

Summer Hummus with Garden Herbs

I love using home-grown ingredients and the satisfaction that comes from that little bit of self-sufficiency. It’s too early for any fruit and veggies yet but my herbs are going strong and I wanted to share with you my summer hummus recipe that’s perfect for this time of year.

Hummus is my go-to lunch item as I try to stick to a high proportion of plant-based food. Given that I make it every week, the traditional version can get a bit samey, so I enjoy trying out different flavour combinations.

This lovely green hummus makes a great alternative to the classic recipe and is alive with the flavours of summer. I make it without tahini which gives it a certain lightness, but you can always add a tablespoon or two if you like. Mint and lemon verbena really give it that summery zing, but you can use whatever herbs you like from your garden; feel free to experiment with different combinations. Some of the quantities are deliberately vague as I like to be relaxed and go with the flow whilst making this, and encourage you to do the same!

Equipment:

Ingredients:

  • 400g tin chickpeas (garbanzo beans) or 125g dried chickpeas
  • Large handful of frozen peas
  • Handful of spinach (fresh or frozen)
  • Small handful of mint and lemon verbena leaves (or other fresh herbs)
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 1 lemon
  • A good glug of olive oil
  • Salt, pepper and chilli powder to taste

Method:

If using dried chickpeas, cook or sprout them according to your preferred method ahead of making your hummus. Otherwise, drain the can of chickpeas and save the aquafaba.

Put your frozen peas in the saucepan on a medium heat for a few minutes. Once warmed through, rinse with cool water to bring back to room temperature.

Peel and roughly chop the garlic. Add it to the food processor with the chickpeas, peas, spinach and herbs. Whizz up until very finely chopped, scraping down the sides with the spatula occasionally if needed.

Juice half the lemon and add the juice to the processor along with a good glug of olive oil (a couple of tablespoons) and a splash of the aquafaba. Blend for a good few minutes until smooth (it takes patience!). Add more aquafaba if needed to get the desired consistency.

Taste and adjust: add lemon juice/zest, olive oil, salt pepper and chilli powder and continue to blend until you’ve reached your ideal flavour balance. Transfer to your container and store in the fridge. It’ll keep well for about 5 days.

Top tip: if your food processor has an accessory designed to help get a smooth consistency, use it! In the case of Magimix, I use the BlenderMix which stops the ingredients flying up the sides of the bowl, keeping them close to the blade an ensuring more effective blending.

Serve simply with pitta and carrot sticks or as a refreshing side to a summer salad.

A great alternative is to use broad beans in place of the peas & spinach, and add some green chilli for extra zing, Yummy!

I’ve got some other lovely home-grown recipes up my sleeve, so be sure to follow me to be the first to know about new recipes when they drop!

Note: As an Amazon Associate I will earn commission from qualifying purchases via links in this blog

Plastic Pollution

A Top Tip for Tea-Drinking Types

I was astounded when I discovered, maybe a couple of years ago now, that teabags contain plastic. Once I knew, it seemed obvious – of course they’d disintegrate if they were just paper – but I was shocked at the time. I was also somewhat disturbed by this fact, given the amount of tea that I drink (I am English after all) and how many people throw teabags in their food waste bins. I was immediately on a mission to eradicate teabags from my life.

Loose tea is an obvious answer, and indeed I enjoy the process of selecting different varieties, making and drinking the tea. But sometimes loose-leaf just isn’t practical, you don’t have the time or, if you’re anything like me, you just fancy the type of brew that only comes from an English Breakfast tea bag. Not only is this problematic because of the plastic, but also because most teabags are bleached, which isn’t good for the body either. There must be a better way…

You can imagine my delight when I discovered that Clipper Tea bags are not only unbleached but plastic-free too. What’s more, their Everyday variety is about the tastiest I’ve ever come across – amazing! Oh, and of course it’s Fairtrade too…

Even more happily, it turns out Clipper originated right here in my home county of Dorset. I feel rather proud of that! On writing this post, I worried that it would only be relevant for people living in the UK, but no: Clipper has branched out internationally to over 50 countries, including the United States, Germany, Italy and Japan. So wherever you are, I hope you find yourself able to sample this wonderful English tea, guilt-free.

I invite you to make a brew, sit back, relax and browse the rest of my site. Aaah.