I’ve been collecting a Platt Field’s Market Garden veg box for a year now, which means I’ve been enjoying experimenting with and sharing recipes, discovering new ingredients and breaking up the monotony of the supermarket offerings with seasonal vegetables, fruits and herbs from my local grower.
Usually Summer is the most exciting time for new and interesting produce from PMFG but as I’m away in Scotland for the sunniest months, i'll be missing out. To make up for it, I’m visiting another garden and producer on my travels as an opportunity to see how other communities grow and enjoy their food.
About 400 miles North of Manchester are Cosaig Growers, an independently run, small-scale market garden on a North-facing hillside in the village of Glenelg, Scotland. Overlooking the Isle of Skye, they are one of several small gardens and farms supplying seasonal food in this small village.
Sweet peas and the packing-shed
The Cosaig growers are Jake Butcher and Kate Wieteska, who developed some of the skills to start their own project through volunteering with other community gardens and time spent WWOOF-ing. Reclaimed over four years from brambles, bracken and brash, they have transformed a small area of idle land into a impressive market garden, complete with seedling greenhouse and packing shed. The steeper hillside behind the garden is being scythed by hand and terraced, or planted with orchard trees and fruit bushes, to produce apples, plums, blackcurrants and blueberries alongside peas and potatoes. Flowers are also grown in the garden to attract pollinators, which can be harvested to create sustainable fresh and dried bouquets.
Highland flowers, including Sorrel, which has bonus edible leaves.
The fruit, vegetables and herbs in the garden are grown with a no-dig philosophy and organic principles. One technique is to plant potatoes amongst unwanted bracken, which with time, compete with the bracken roots, making them easy to pull from the soil, leaving a potato bed in it's place. These methods mean the soil stays healthy and undisturbed, so it keeps it’s distinct layers and doesn't release carbon stored underground. It also means the garden requires minimal watering, but it does help that rain is something Manchester and Scotland have in common! Just like Platt Fields, Cosaig Growers have taken an area of neglected land and, with care and patience, turned it into something remarkable.
A soil-blocker, used to grow seedlings with minimal plastic.
PMFG and Cosaig Growers are similar in that they provide veg boxes for the local community and supply or work with local restaurants (such as Higher Ground and WTLGI in Manchester) who recognise the importance of working directly with growers, for taste and variety.
From 'unimproved grassland' to orchard, Kate and Jake have shown we can grow food anywhere!
Potatoes grown amongst the bracken
In Glenelg, Cosaig Growers' produce can be found in the local shop and pub; their vegetables are also harvested and delivered within hours to a nearby outdoor restaurant, Eòlach, where they are cooked over open fire and served with other local and foraged ingredients. For me, this is another reminder that by supporting independent producers,we’re enjoying the same quality, seasonal, ingredients used in restaurants whilst also sustaining the livelihoods of our community growers in the most delicious way possible!
The homemade solar-powered dehydrator, used to dry herbs, fruits and seeds.
If you’re enjoying the summer of abundance with a local veg box and have a recipe to share, you can contribute to the PFMG community cookbook here.