It’s no secret that I’m a self-confessed foodie; whether it’s creating new recipes, cooking family favourites, or simply enjoying the act of eating itself, food is absolutely a passion for me. And I’ve just discovered a whole new food joy; eating a meal that I’ve grown myself.
This summer we’ve been taking our first steps in growing our own fruit and veg, with the help of Wyevale Garden Centres. They sent us all the things we needed to grow a selection of edible plants, plus some instructions to help us look after them.
I’m very much a novice gardener so it was a bit daunting at first, but we’ve started small and managed to keep on top of things. And those little plants became my pride and joy pretty fast! Here’s an update on how they’re getting on, and what I’ve been cooking with them.
We’ve tried growing tomatoes in the past, but without much success; not this time! We gave them a good start by planting each one into a tomato growing bag, and supporting them with garden canes as they grew.
I also made a real effort to water them regularly; apparently a good soaking every few days is best, as it makes the plants produce stronger, deeper roots, which in turn creates a bigger plant and more tomatoes.
It was so exciting to see the first green fruits appearing (we’ve grown a tiny, berry-like variety), and we’d read that this was the best time to give them some tomato feed. After that, they just kept on coming!
Within a few weeks we were harvesting our first tomatoes – and yes, we scoffed a few straight from the plant, who wouldn’t?!
The thing that has delighted us the most is the taste – the tiny tomatoes are sweet and flavoursome and the larger tomatoes are so deep with flavour it’s almost like eating a slow cooked tomato sauce in a single bite, straight off the vine.
I love to cook with basil, so the idea of growing a plentiful source of fresh leaves was perfect. We’ve grown our basil from seed, which has been really easy and low-maintenance.
My first plants did well, but I moved them during a tidy up and forgot to water them! I retrieved some more seeds from the pack and new seedlings soon cropped up.
Having the pot on the kitchen windowsill by the sink has helped us remember to water it, and has also given it plenty of warm sunshine, which really helps to develop the flavour.
So, what to cook with my gorgeous little tomatoes and my lovely fresh basil leaves? It just felt right to keep it simple and let the flavours shine through, which is how this ultimate cheese on toast came about.
I phoned my mum and asked for her best wholemeal loaf recipe, then I got to work, making up a loaf in a couple of hours, filling the kitchen with that gorgeous smell you can only get from freshly baked bread. Sliced and layered with generous slabs of mature cheese, grilled to perfection, then topped with freshly picked tomberries and basil leaves, this snack was all the more delicious knowing that I made it myself.
I love that a handful of fresh produce from the garden inspired me to make my own bread; would that have happened had I bought it from a shop? Probably not.
When you bite into this, at first you get the smooth creaminess of the cheese against the slightly coarse wholemeal texture of the bread, but it doesn’t stop there. In comes an intense burst of fresh flavour from the tomatoes, and a little kick from the basil; just perfect.
We all know that using fresh, good quality ingredients can make all the difference to how our food tastes, but this is fresh on another level. It’s food that has gone from plant to plate in a matter of minutes, and you can really tell.
I’ll be posting an update on our other crops (peas, spinach and strawberries very soon. In the meantime, I’d love to hear how your crops are getting on, or if I’ve inspired you to try growin gyour own for the first time.
This is a commissioned post for Wyevale Garden Centres