"My little space brightens up people’s day. They linger around the space, their eyes maybe catching something new, in flower, a vegetable growing and changing as it rains. They recognise the plants that their mothers/fathers used to grow and it takes them back to their childhoods."
We love Elainea and Wesley Emmott! The talented MIH Guest Chefs led a class with us back in June; you may remember? As well as being incredible cooks and writers - the mother and son duo also love to grow! "We plant and harvest together, going into our front yard daily, picking rocket leaves for his lunch or rosemary for a stew."
This is their Front Yard Kitchen in Queen's Park, started in 2020. "The lockdown and long queues for the farmers market seen from my flat just made me so angry – why isn’t good food available for all. I use reclaimed containers from local skips, - my potato bed held within an old wardrobe base drawer" - you can be really inventive and don't need much to start! Read more more about it below, and the joy it brings to their local community.
"I give plants away and so much comes back with kindness and conversations to those who are important in this community, like Angela ( above) whom I have never met but took the time to get to know her, listening to her talk about her family, heat waves in Spain and what she likes to cook and eat."
Some of the crops you grew this Summer:
"Chicory is growing like crazy and flowering with its delicate blue flowers, the nasturtiums are flowering, always edible with the flowers and rounded leaves. The kohl rabi is bulbous and flowers are a pretty yellow, the swiss chard has such vibrant, red-like jewel leaves, my broad beans are majestic and the brussel sprout leaves are large and commanding. The watercress is hidden but has such lovely tangy leaves and delicate white flowers when going to seed. We grow a lot of cabbages and it's difficult to do crop rotation in a small space, but we try. I use Comfrey as a fertiliser and Neem oil with water (neighbour’s idea) to spray to keep aphids down as well as good old soapy water and my fingers. I go out in the mornings with a cup of tea to catch the slugs/snails and pick them off my tender plants. I’m excited about my black tomatoes – Blue Baum which are growing, not a huge crop but I cannot wait to see how it fares and hope the tomato thief of last year does not return. I am growing a white strawberry but that is inside at the moment away from the slugs!"
Why you would encourage people to grow.
"Gardening is messy and tactile. I like seeing the children run their hands over the grasses I grow at the front and I position things like the broad beans so they can see them on their way to school. It's quite amazing that these things can grow and flower with an actual bean coming out at the end. Children must know where food comes from in order to eat well. Unearthing potatoes with a small girl was precious as was hearing her run after her dad shouting about ‘Daddy I’ve got pototato’ , she also renamed me ‘the Potato Lady’ – she couldn’t believe potatoes grew under the ground."
"Living in London can be hard and you yearn for space and greenness. The marginalised communities in deprived areas often have the least green spaces and they need them the most. My space helps people’s mental health as well as my own and if it soothes someone’s mind after a crazy day and I can give them a plant or two then this makes me and Wesley happy."
How your neighbourhood is changing.
"People live fast lives and rush from restaurant to home, if you don’t linger at your door you don’t talk to neighbours or know who your neighbours are; and they don’t see you either. Community changes as people move out and away, taking their heritage with them and the area becomes bland. That’s why front yards and street parties are important. Only the older generation who still live here can tell me how this flat used to be an African food store, with tales of the Bentley’s arriving on the street as the shop sold African and Jamaican food to the staff at the embassies in Brondesbury. I think there are no coincidences, and that my sweet potatoes growing outside and cooking within are home. I wish I could see pictures of this flat at that time, but sadly there are none, erased like the previous owners."
Thank you Elainea and Wesley!
[Photos by @ruddtara].