Alys Fowler tries to avoid shop-bought fruit and veg and live off home-grown produce. Alys shows how an edible garden can provide for the leaner months.
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'I'm Alice Fowler.
'I'm a gardener and a writer.
'I grew up in the countryside,
'but now my husband and I live in the city.
'I get pleasures from simple things.
'My chickens and home grown food.
'This is my garden - a small Victorian terraced backyard, around 20 foot by around 60.
'I'm trying to avoid shop-bought fruit and veg and live off home grown produce from my edible garden
'that has to be both beautiful as well as productive.
'This time, I'm focusing on filling my store cupboards
'with vegetables that will feed us through the colder months,
'as well as the pickles and preserves that will flavour our winter suppers.'
There's nothing quite like brightly coloured jars to keep away
the winter blues and if you're going to try and live off your garden,
you need to preserve, bottle and pickle an awful lot.
And I think there's just enough to keep me happy.
'As well as having vegetables to eat in season, an edible garden needs to provide for the leaner months.
'So whilst I've been living off my fresh produce, I've also been storing
'and preserving any gluts my garden has provided.
'My journey to a well-stocked winter larder began back in April.'
The point is, my garden is a very average back garden.
And if you can grow at least a meal a day in your average terrace,
that's quite an achievement, and that's what I aim to do.
'To avoid a hungry gap, I made sure that there was a succession of veg to keep harvesting.
'So April and May were busy months.
'Foraging in the wild larder helped whilst the garden took root.
'And then the vegetables and fruits started coming
'and my little garden began to provide delicious meals...
'..and excess vegetables I could store.
'The garden began to look pretty...
'and it fed the insects too.
'But not everything went to plan.
'And the weather wasn't great.'
Sometimes you break absolutely everything. Your back, your heart,
your nails, the whole experience hurts.
This is not the summer that I signed up for.
'But the garden kept growing, and the food kept coming.
'Bountiful crops meant party food for all.
'And there were fresh salads every day.
'But a year-round edible garden is not just about eating fresh pickings,
'it's about making sure you have enough to store.
'The key to a winter larder
'is to grow crops that guarantee a plentiful harvest,
'enough to enjoy fresh, and enough to preserve.
'Courgettes and squashes can be prolific.
'In a good season, one plant can easily produce 20 fruits.
'So I am putting in two courgette plants
'which should provide two people
'enough courgettes to eat fresh and some to store.'
This is my fail safe...courgette,
because it's a variety called Defender,
and it's particularly good for organic growers
because it's very, very disease-resistant
to mildews and what not,
and whatever the weather,
this one produces very traditional straight green courgettes
and it will take up this entire area.
'At the bottom of the garden,
'I'm planting out a squash called patty pan.
'It's one of my favourites.
'This plant is about six-weeks-old
'and because I want each plant to produce so much fruit,
'I'm giving them plenty of rich compost to grow in.
'But the squash family are hungry plants,
'so I also need to feed it to be sure of a bountiful harvest.
'For that, I made a nitrogen-rich tonic from nettles rotted down in water.
'Great for the plants, but with an evil smell. Effective but a bit deadly.'
It's gone mouldy. How is that possible? Urgh!
I love vegetables so much.
I've got a kind of aversion.
I used to be really good and it didn't bother me,
and this one has kind of, is taking me over the edge.
All I want to do is throw up every time I open this.
'By June and July the garden is growing fast.
'I'm harvesting broad beans, and what I can't eat fresh, I'll freeze for winter stews.
'And there's other crops, too.'
It's a bit like hunting for gold though.
'I've grown two sorts of potatoes,
'salad potatoes to eat now, and others that will store.'
I have got...
at least 60 or 70 potatoes...
..from eight plants,
which is more than enough for us.
'If you are going to store potatoes,
'they need to go in a cool dark place.
'Left in the light and they'll turn green and become poisonous,
'but like this they'll keep for months.'
Hello, chicky chicks. Hello!
'By August the summer squash I planted is fruiting like mad.'
Well, our summer has been everything but perfect,
but there are one or two things
that have been giving me lots of joy
and this patty pan,
'these funny, small, butter-coloured flying saucers
have been producing for a couple of weeks
and eaten about this size,
sliced up finely and dressed with lemon, or fried, they're fantastic.
'My courgettes are also ripe for picking, and as I've hoped,
'it's been a good crop so there's plenty to preserve for my winter larder,
'whilst I can also enjoy them fresh on homemade pizza.
'My summer special is courgette, parmesan, capers and olives, with fresh grown garden rocket.
'It beats any takeaway.
'Over the summer, I've made the most of my fruit gluts
'and used my basic knowledge of preserving to make dried apple rings,
'a sweet taste of summer for the colder months.
'And damson cheese, a delicious alternative to jam.
'And I like to preserve my herbs, too.
'I've got lots of mint which I use to make mint tea,
'but when it gets colder the leaves get damaged by frost so I dry them.'
If you dry them in direct sunlight then they sort of fade to a yellow
and they don't look nearly as nice, so out of the sunlight,
and when they are dry to touch,
then they're ready.
'And there's nothing quite like homemade mint tea on a cold winter's day.
'But I want to find out more about preserving,
'so I'm taking some of my produce to Daphne Lambert and Miche Fabre Lewin.
'I'm a novice compared to them,
'as they have perfected the art of preserving fruit and vegetables.'
So exactly what can and can you not preserve?
Well, I think we'd say you could preserve everything.
From mushrooms to damsons, to chard,
to turnip, to sage, to onion.
Everything can be preserved in some way.
They have nutritional benefits too, so it's not just about lasting.
They also aid digestion.
'My first lesson is an easy way to preserve my courgettes.
'Miche introduces me to an ingenious pickle recipe,
'which you can eat as soon as you've made it, or keep it for many months.'
''So this is my small harvest from my garden.
If we were in the depths of winter, to open a jar
and see that yellow next to the green, with a little bit of red.
Particularly as this is quite a dull-tasting courgette.
So we can really lift it.
'First we shred perilla leaves, an Oriental herb I've been growing in my garden.
We add it to some cider apple vinegar, concentrated apple juice and, finally, sliced garlic.
Well, this is to your garden, Alice.
It smells really good already.
While that mix steeps, we make another pickling solution with cider vinegar
and more concentrated apple juice, infused with cinnamon bark, caraway seeds and juniper berries.
-We've got our sort of spices in. How about some herbs?
Some fresh herbs from the garden.
With the bay leaves and rosemary immersed in the solution, next we add the courgettes and chillies.
Miche cuts her vegetables along their natural growing lines, from their top to their bottom.
This, she believes, brings out the more natural flavour.
You want to mix that all in?
Mm. Beautiful. Beautiful.
We add the perilla and garlic mix to the ingredients.
Fold them together and pack it into a sterilised jar,
topping up with more vinegar solution.
-This is from your garden. You've got your garden preserved in a jar.
And look how quick that is. You could be eating it now essentially as well.
Miche recommends serving her pickles with bread and salad, or as a garnish to rice dishes and soup.
It can be eaten right away or will last for many months.
In addition to my courgette pickle, I'm eager to learn a preserving process I've never tried before.
Daphne has agreed to teach me the long forgotten art of fermenting food.
It's a technique that's been used for over 7,000 years.
We're making sauerkraut - fermented cabbage.
That doesn't initially sound very appetising.
It's literally cabbage and caraway seed.
That's really nice.
Clearly, because I can't stop eating it!
-Would you like to make some?
Mm! Can't decide whether I want to eat it or make it more!
Fermentation is simple. Apparently you just need a jar and some salt.
The art is to cut things very, very finely
because what we're going to do is use a little bit of salt to extract the liquid from the cells.
-And the finer it's chopped, the more liquid you're going to get.
Daphne explains that plants contain a range of beneficial bacteria.
Fermentation happens when you create the right conditions for the good bacteria to grow
and suppress the bacteria that makes food rot.
So the next stage is to sprinkle on top of the cabbage some salt.
You don't need to do too much, but there will be more salt going in as we progress,
but at this stage you don't need much.
And then you start pounding.
The pounding break downs the cabbage cell structure and releases natural juices.
It's very satisfying.
It's a beautiful process.
You pound the cabbage for about ten minutes and then cover it and leave it overnight to help fermentation.
Daphne has already left this bowl of cabbage overnight and the next stage is to add extra flavouring.
You could, if you've got a lot of windfalls, you could put apple in it, apple and cabbage is quite nice,
add a tartness to it,
or you could layer it up with other vegetables.
I mean, I think this is beautiful to layer it up with.
This is Swiss chard and it should add an earthy, nutty flavour to the sauerkraut.
So we're going to put about three handfuls
into the bottle and you're going to gently press it down
and the idea now is to make it without air.
The key is to make sure that the vegetables are submerged beneath the salty cabbage juices,
so no bad bacteria can breed inside the jar.
-This has to stay in liquid.
And we're going to weight it down with some water.
And in the next 24 hours it will start bubbling and fermenting.
-Beautiful colours through that one.
My day with Daphne and Miche has inspired me to expand my winter larder
and look beyond my dried fruits and jams.
I didn't grow any cabbage because they take up quite a lot of room and I don't usually like them,
but I couldn't get enough of that sauerkraut, so I'm buying my first veg of the year to make my own.
September brings another opportunity to add to my winter food stocks.
A glut of runner beans.
At this point I'm just actually being very traditional and freezing a lot because...
now they seem, kind of, frozen beans don't seem that exciting.
Actually, come January...to add to kind of curries and soups, they're brilliant.
As well as freezing, I'm also preserving some, using Miche's pickle recipe.
The key to a productive garden is good preparation
and as the autumn approaches and the garden slows down, it's time to think about the next year.
One thing I want to do is make more space for vegetables,
so the chickens are going to have to move.
Hello, girls. How you doing? Hello. Are you OK?
You are going to be moving. Put your head back in. It'll almost be over.
Good girl. Bye-bye!
My friend Dave has come to help.
Their new home is next to the compost
and will be more spacious,
so I could even increase my little chicken family.
They've fertilised the ground that they've left behind, so I'll get a great new growing space.
And then a bit this way.
With a new trellis fence in place, Gertrude and Alice have their own chicken compound
where they can roam freely outside of their coop.
I am delighted.
Got a good growing space over there, it's where the chickens were, so they've been fertilising that
and these girls get to have a very happy life.
Scratching in a lot of dirt.
You guys aren't going to want to go to bed, are you ?
A small, but tasty addition to my store cupboard is dried seeds
and I've been collecting different types all summer from my mature flower heads,
like these poppy seeds.
But supplies for my winter larder are to be found well beyond my garden fence.
As autumn approaches, I head out to a nearby river bank to forage for some hidden gems.
Depending on who you are,
Himalayan balsam is either a very uninvited guest,
an alien that's taking over our wilder bits,
particularly by rivers and damp places,
or it's rather a tasty snack and a very pretty flower, much loved by our bees.
They have these incredible exploding seed pods,
and they really do explode.
And inside those are little...
They look quite like apple pips,
a bit peppery, and they're amazing when you use them to bake breads.
So, I thought I'd do my bit of plant control
by collecting as many seeds as possible.
Back in my edible garden and there are more seeds to harvest.
Enough to feed the neighbourhood wildlife as well as myself.
These multi-headed sunflowers, I'm going to leave over the winter
because once you rub all of this off, that's where the seeds are, and if I leave this and it's basically
a really cool bird feeder that looks great and the birds can enjoy the seeds.
These really big sunflower heads... I don't leave to the birds
because they also have giant seeds, which means I can roast them and salt them and snack on them.
As the colder weather sets in, there's another job I can get on with and that's to turn my compost.
Compost feeds your soil and a well-fed garden means plentiful vegetables.
So, the time has come. Out of the way, Alice.
Yes, to do the compost.
And it's got into a bit of a mess really, but autumn is the perfect time to deal with this
because you're starting to produce a lot more material to go on to the compost
because you're cutting stuff back, but also it's had a year or so
of sitting round, and as you get down to the bottom...
it's going to be the good stuff, and that's what matters because
you can't grow good vegetables without constantly feeding the soil.
And into the compost goes all the obvious stuff.
The stuff from the garden, as well as a lot of peelings and kitchen scraps,
but nothing cooked.
No bread, no pasta, no rice.
Anything like that will be a really big mistake, because you just attract rats really quickly.
These are compost worms.
Once your compost reaches a good state they just appear.
They're like one of compost's miracles, really,
and partly why these girls are having a good scratch.
Come on. Out the way.
By spreading my compost now, it'll do two things.
It will feed my winter greens and allow the worms to dig the goodness back into the ground.
And by spring,
we'll have fantastic soil.
November brings the last opportunity to plant out some winter crops,
so that I'll have something fresh to pick in February.
So, in order to make sure that I am continually able to eat off this garden,
these winter veg are the last things that I will plant out this year.
These are an oriental mustard called Golden Streak and it's a very finely cut mustard.
It tastes amazing.
A really good peppery spicy flavour.
Such a fine, pretty little plant.
And they look so lovely in winter salads.
This is a radicchio, which is a bitter Italian leaf,
like a lettuce.
You can either cook with it, or eat it very small in a traditional salad.
And they need this cool weather.
In fact it's the very cold, frosty days that concentrate the flavour.
During the summer, you might try and ram plants in, oh, you could go a bit closer.
You can't do that in the winter, they need lots of air circulation around them
or else they get the kind of mould that rots the leaves away.
Although most of my efforts are now focused on the next year, I have one last harvest.
All summer long, the willowy stems of the Jerusalem artichokes have been growing almost unnoticed
at the back of my borders.
The time has come to dig up the Jerusalem artichokes which are these incredibly tall plants
which make up the backdrop to the garden.
They grow, quite literally, in the background,
doing very little other than growing very, very tall all year,
and the point about them is that they really are
a slacker vegetable
because you do nothing whatsoever.
You don't feed them, you don't look after them, you don't water them,
and in return, you get a huge amount
of these very knobbly white tubers,
which can be roasted
or fried or baked.
I think they have suffered a little from having a bad reputation.
They are known to make you fart a lot, which is why some people call them fartichokes.
And there is a trick or a way round that and that is to use the herb winter savoury when you cook them
because this sort of counter-balances their gassy properties.
If you don't cook with winter savoury, you will propel yourself round the garden the next day.
is why it's a slacker vegetable
because all you have to do now is plant
one back in the ground and this is the bounty from just one plant.
Look at all that. And I did nothing.
I really... Chuck a bit of earth on that one that I've chucked down there
and the whole process starts again.
And you don't have to dig them all up at once, you can just leave them in the ground over the winter
and take them up as and when you need them.
And here is winter savoury, the modest little herb which will save your blushes.
It has a delicious spicy flavour and it likes to grow in a sunny,
well-drained part of your garden, but will come back year after year.
I'll add to it the artichokes to make a delicious gratin,
which I am going to serve at a harvest supper party.
For my gratin, I simply boil the artichokes in their skins, then
peel and slice and layer them into a baking dish.
A quick seasoning with black pepper, garlic and my winter savoury
and then it's time to add a carton of cream,
butter and a breadcrumb and parmesan cheese topping.
I'll bake it in the oven and serve it warm as a nutty flavoured winter treat.
For my harvest supper, my friends are bringing edible gifts.
They're gathering veg from their own little plots to add to the menu.
It's time to welcome my friends.
-Ooh, it looks cold.
-Beetroot sorbet, it's very cold.
-Who's here? Who's here?
-Hello. What have you made?
-My own aubergines and red peppers.
-What did you make?
-Aw! Thank you.
So, this is Moroccan lamb stew
with kale, parsley, celery, beetroot,
runner beans, garlic and onions from the garden.
Nice organic lamb. Fartichoke for those who are brave.
Are we talking about fartichokes? It sounds concerning.
It's not fartichokes, it's Jerusalem artichokes.
-They're really good.
-Well, no. Everybody has to eat a bit of that.
Have you got enough there?
I'm really impressed with the moussaka.
-It's very good.
-I'm quite proud because it's home-grown onions,
home-grown garlic, aubergine and red peppers.
Shall we have a toast? To all the lovely food we grew ourselves.
At the beginning of the year I set out to make a garden that had to be productive as well as beautiful.
And through my little experiment I found a way of gardening that was more gentle.
It seemed more free and nature was more responsive to it
and I think it's changed the way I will garden forever.
This funny little space has produced way more than I could have imagined.
I've not just grown food, I've grown happy.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Alys Fowler attempts to avoid shop-bought fruit and vegetables and live off her own, home-grown produce, all from her tiny terraced back garden. It's no easy task because Alys doesn't want to turn her garden into an allotment, so she's growing her fruit and vegetables among her flowers.
Alys will focus on different foods and show how anyone can grow, cook and eat from their own garden, even if they live in a city.
As well as providing fruit and vegetables to eat in season, an edible garden needs to provide for the leaner months. That means growing crops that guarantee a plentiful harvest, enough to enjoy right away and enough to store.
Alongside courgettes, squashes and kale, Alys grows Jerusalem artichokes to harvest when the rest of the garden sleeps. She also learns how to preserve the flavours of her garden using simple pickling recipes and forages for seeds in the 'wild larder'. Finally, Alys plants up winter crops to tide her over until next spring.