The ‘trough scoff’ challenge

I’ve always been a bit childish about playing with my food. Maybe because as a child I didn’t like much food and spent most mealtimes pushing it round my plate. Then there were tray inspections at school dinner times to check we were eating properly. The slice of processed ham hidden between tray and plate away from the eagle eye of the matron on ‘are they getting their protein’ duty was always a winner.

Now I eat most things but haven’t lost my temptation to arrange and photograph ingredients and leftovers in silly ways. Here’s one from a brunch in Berlin back in 2005. (I knew I’d have a use for it one day!)


And another from today – all produce grown and freshly picked this weekend from my parents’ vegetable patch.


The fennel made a delicious soup. The tomatoes went into a lentil and goats cheese salad. And the courgette is to be the vital ingredient of a chocolate courgette cake I’m entering into the ‘cakestravaganza’ competition at my friend’s wedding this weekend. 

Growing your own is very much de rigour. From the National Trust’s announcement that they’re creating 1,000 new allotments on Trust land (it’s one of their most popular news stories ever), to Michelle Obama’s commitment to the White House Kitchen Garden, and the many green-fingered gardeners who’ve been planting and harvesting their dinner table delights for many a moon and are suddenly the leaders of the pak (choy)! 

For new wave growers, the time is ripe for finding ingenious spaces to sew and sprout your veg. The sky is literally the limit. Headlines are shouting about ‘pop-up crops’, ‘window food’, ‘vertically-grown veg’, and my personal favourite courtesy of the National Trust… ‘ledge veg‘. They’ve done the calculations and found out that the UK’s windowsills collectively offer 600 acres of growing space – potentially that’s a lot of sill dill!

Because I like challenges and food, I’m going to promise publicly here to cover my balcony ledge with tasty ‘trough scoff’. I’m thinking some ledge lettuce, roof-top rosemary & balcony beetroot might be a good start. They are all in the top five vegetables to grow in window boxes list. I’ll be following advice on The London Vegetable Garden blog too for urban balcony growing tips. 

I’ll also be a plus one to Boris’ Capital Growth scheme which aims to open up 2,012 new fruit and veg growing spaces by 2012. 

Vertical allotments, it seems, are being given serious attention by the big guys too. Check out plans for hanging gardens in tower blocks in this recent Times article. 

So why not join the ledge veg revolution? You may scoff, but once your neighbours’ and friends’ sills are sprouting you’ll be wishing you’d tended some veggie troughs too. And who needs the greengrocer for the basics when you’ve got your own blooming marvellous mint and locally-sourced lettuce leaves at arm’s reach. Jamie O would be proud. Go on, do it, and then pass the idea on to a friend.


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