The sun broke through the recent gloom to shine brightly on our latest volunteer in-service training day on Saturday, as our Master Gardeners gathered at Leicester Botanical Gardens to learn how to grow ‘exotic’ vegetables.
Volunteers arrived with a desire to support a wider diversity of growers , and particularly those refugees, asylum seekers and overseas students who come to our county; to ‘liven things up’ and get more creative with growers in their own communities and to expand their own growing horizons. As ever, the day was also a chance to enjoy meeting like-minded gardeners and swap stories and growing tips.
The day was led by Garden Organic’s Anton Rosenfeld, who runs the Growing From Your Roots project; gathering information and stories about the wide range of new crops that immigrants bring to our English allotments and gardens, as well as seeds adapted to our climate by years of growers’ seed saving. Some of which are now available to members of Garden Organic’s Heritage Seed Library.
Our Master Gardeners learned about everything from Ying’s Chinese lablab beans to sharks fin melon and giant Dhudi squashes, which featured in an excellent curry lunch. They got hands on with angular loofas, bitter gourds, turmeric, methi and mooli and visited the gardens’ greenhouses to see Taro, sugar cane and pineapples growing. Before lunch, appetites were sharpened as they made freshly ground garam masala, a delicious way of using home grown coriander and cumin seed. Click here for the recipe to have a go yourself.
In the afternoon, after trainers and volunteers alike were chivvied back from the fascinations of the gardens to those of the classroom, there was more hands on learning as they took root cuttings of lemon grass and African kale. Coordinator Alison McGrath now has the daunting responsibility of bringing on cuttings of Vietnamese coriander and Carribbean Thyme to propagate more plants for our volunteers in 2017. The day ended with mincepies, coffee and a quiz to test their new knowledge.
We all went home with plans and ideas for expanding our own growing and that of the people we support. Who knows, maybe one day, home grown turmeric and coriander seed will be as much a part of the average Leicestershire gardener’s normal repertoire as the once ‘exotic’ chilli.