This is an attempt to document my efforts to grow and eat locally around Melbourne, Derbyshire. My family own a nine acre smallholding on which we grow fruit and vegetables and keep bees, and chickens, but that won't feed us alone, so the idea is to get to know our local produce and to see how easy/hard it is to follow a diet that is local to within 30 miles. The fun part is also trying some new (easy) recipes that use home-grown and local produce. Feel free to comment, send in recipes, and share your experiences of buying and eating locally.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Forest Gardening

I gave a talk this week at the Derbyshire Forest Schools Day on the subject of Forest Gardening.  The presentation (minus a few photos) is now on their website  at

The talk was very popular and I was so pleased to be able to spread the word about this most productive but sustainable type of garden.  I particularly looked at the ways that forest gardens can benefit forest schools sessions, eg by growing resources to use, but also looked at food plants and trees of particular use to schools.

It reminded me of a visit here by a national delegation looking into carbon and woodlands two years ago, at which I took this photograph.  The photo shows some of the forest garden produce we have available and how productive woodlands can be, not just for timber but food, craft resources, medicines, herbs, bee plants, fodder, fertility and much more.  The background in the photo is much changed in the last two years, as during that time we have planted 2000 trees at the bottom of the field and dug two ponds. 

Elderflower Drizzle Cake

I made this today from a recipe in the Guardian - yummy and very seasonal.  It's very rich and would be lovely as a pudding with fruit and a dollop of cream. I love simple recipes and this is very simple, being basically a Victoria sandwich with drizzle topping - but the end result is so much more.  My cakes don't seem to be rising very well at the moment, so I added 1 tsp baking powder and 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda to make it lighter. 
Serves 6-8
225g butter, softened
225g caster sugar
4 large eggs
225g self raising flour, sifted
(raising agents - see above)
For the icing
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
100ml elderflower cordial
2 tbsp sugar
1 Line a loaf tin with baking parchment. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, then beat in the eggs one by one. Incorporate the flour and mix well, until smooth and creamy.
2 Turn into the prepared loaf tin and bake for 40-45 minutes, until well-risen and golden brown on top.
3 Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then prick all over with a skewer or fork.
4 Heat the elderflower cordial, lemon juice and sugar in a pan until hot, but not boiling. Drizzle over the cake, encouraging it to run into the sink holes. It should sink in and leave a crunchy crust.

Rhubarb wine

This is my favourite home-made wine as it makes a very drinkable white wine which is not too sweet, unlike many fruit wines.  Rhubarb is also usually so bountiful if you grow it yourself, and you can usually cadge some off a neighbour if you don't.   It's very easy to propagate by digging up and replanting part of the plant.  This wine was a great hit at the summer fruit evening last year and I'm glad I made 20 litres of it.

Here's my recipe:

3 pounds rhubarb
3 pounds white sugar
1 gallon hot water (doesn't have to be boiling)
wine yeast

or for a larger metric quantity:

4 kilos rhubarb
4 kilos of sugar
13.5 litres water
wine yeast.


Pick the rhubarb and then chop it up and put in the freezer in plastic bags for a few days.  This breaks down the cells and releases the juice when the wine is made.  It's an essential step so don't miss it out. 
Put the rhubarb in a primary fementor (large bucket) and cover with the sugar.  Leave for 24 hours.
Add the hot water (doesn't need to be boiling) and mix.  Then strain out the rhubarb and put the liquid back into the primary fermentor and when it is luke warm add the yeast.  Cover and leave for 3 - 4 days, then syphon the liquid into demi-johns with air locks.  Leave to ferment.  Rack it into new demi-johns after around a month as there will be a lot of sediment.
Bottle up around 6 months, and then it's best to drink after about a year.  
The two year old wine that we are drinking at the moment is also good.