Cooking with Wild Greens

Spring is the best time to enjoy the free greens available in our Incredible Edible gardens, as fresh new growth is always the best to eat, and there is plenty of it at both gardens right now! Take advantage of wild garlic, winter purslane/claytonia, Good King Henry, caucasian vining spinach, bladder campion, sorrel, hogweed, oxeye daisy leaves, nettles and more – it’s all available for you to pick your own. Greens like these can be used in place of spinach in all sorts of dishes, and used alone or as a mix.

Mixed wild greens and kale ready for cooking!

It’s important to remember that different leaves will require different cooking times, for example kale or nettles need a good few minutes to soften, while thin leaves like wild garlic and sorrel need only the lightest wilting. Take this into account when cooking, and if using a mix, add tougher leaves first and more delicate ones right at the end of cooking.

Here are two recipes ideal for using a variety of our wild or cultivated leafy greens, including all those mentioned above, chard, spinach and kale:

Spaghetti with Greens and Anchovies (for two)

Put 150g spaghetti on to boil.

In another saucepan, melt a knob of butter, add a small tin of anchovies in oil (use the oil too if you wish), and cook over a low heat until the anchovies melt into a paste. Add a pinch of chilli flakes or cayenne and 1-2 cloves chopped garlic (unless you’re cooking with wild garlic!).

Finely chop 200g leafy greens. When the spaghetti is nearly done, add your greens to the anchovy butter and wilt to your satisfaction. (Alternatively, wilt your greens separately, squeeze the water out, chop finely and then stir into the anchovy butter.) Season to taste.

Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the water. Toss the spaghetti in with the buttery greens and add 40g freshly grated parmesan. Add a dash of the cooking water to loosen as required.


Mushroom and Wild Greens Risotto (for two)

In a small pan, bring a pint (half a litre) of good chicken or veg stock to the boil.

In another pan, heat a knob of butter or some olive oil and add a chopped onion. Cook five minutes until beginning to soften, then add 140g risotto rice and cook 1-2 minutes or until there is a white spot in the middle of each grain. Add 125ml white wine, stir, and simmer until evaporated/absorbed. Add a good pinch of thyme. Add the stock to the rice, half a cup at a time, stirring often and allowing it to absorb before adding more. Keep adding until it is all absorbed and the rice is cooked (around 15 minutes).

Meanwhile, in another pan, cook 100-150g sliced mushrooms in butter or oil until soft. Add 1-2 cloves chopped garlic (unless you’re using wild garlic) and cook for 1-2 minutes, then add 200g leafy greens and cook until soft. Season lightly.

Stir the mushrooms and greens into the cooked rice and add 30g freshly grated parmesan. Check seasoning and serve, with additional parmesan if desired.

Wild Garlic


Spring Newsletter 2021

Welcome to Spring! As with many things the seasons and growing cycles have decided not to pause whilst Covid runs its course. Thanks go out to everyone who has helped to keep the sites ticking over, the harvests productive and continued enthusiasm during what has been a largely wet, cold and restricted time. We look forward to warmer days, greater on-site activity as restrictions permit and to taking the best from our past practices and what we have learned during the pandemic. Like the tomato seedlings (below) that our members are nurturing at home we expect that bigger and better things will emerge.

At Hammonds End we have made it through the winter months and are now starting to think about spring. Vegetable boxes have been fortnightly with 2 members harvesting Tuesday and Wednesday and delivering boxes to 3 main locations in the area for members to pick up. Over the last 3 months boxes have contained leeks, kale, purple sprouting broccoli, cauliflower, lettuce, parsnips, rocket, pak choi, beetroot, spinach and chard.

Hammonds End Cauliflower and Leeks ready to harvest

Polytunnel 2 Lettuce and Pak Choi/Polytunnel 4 Beetroot

Over the next few weeks we will harvest our way through the remaining polytunnel and outdoor crops as we enter the UK Hunger Gap (the period when last year’s crops have finished and this year’s crops are yet to produce). As ever it’s very hard to predict if last year’s crops will produce for long enough before our early sowings for this year are ready – all down to the weather (and a fair bit of luck!).

In addition to the garlic and onions planted in autumn, we have sown the first of this season’s crops: 300 Broad Bean seeds, along with the first of the cabbage, lettuce, and spinach. These are all covered by mesh to stop the mice feasting on the seeds.

In addition, we have sown 60 tomatoes, 30 aubergines, 30 peppers and 8 chilli peppers which members have at home to bring back to site once the last frost has gone.

Over the next few weeks we need to weed and broadfork the outside beds to prepare them for planting at the end of the month. We will plant out potatoes and broad beans and sow calabrese, cauliflower, leeks, celeriac, beetroot, chard and spinach.

Lockdown continues to restrict the number of people on site which means we have lost the communal aspect of growing but hopefully before the summer is out we can be back to normal! We have made a number of videos viewable on You Tube to show members what to be done (available for all to see on the FoodSmiles YouTube channel).


Garlic outside and the first lettuce and broad beans growing in the polytunnel

Over the winter months we managed to dig through the clay to sink the final rainwater harvesting tank for polytunnel 4 which now needs to be linked up to the irrigation system. We have used our compost to top up the beds in the polytunnels and have expanded our rhubarb beds which we hope to be harvesting from in the next few weeks.

Rainwater harvesting tank, filled up beds in PT3 and Rhubarb bed

Hixberry Lane

A very wet winter resulted in waterlogging at the Hixberry site. So it is with some relief that we see signs of new growth. Garlic and overwintered onions grown from both set and seed are growing well and the rhubarb is bursting into leaf.


We started sowing seed in the polytunnel early in the year and have beetroot, turnip, red onion, Brussels sprouts and broad bean seedlings growing strongly. In previous years we have lost a lot of seedlings to hungry mice so members have constructed some fantastic covers to go over the seed trays and these are working well. 

Over the winter we have also been working on eliminating wireworm from the polytunnel bed. A lining barrier has been put around the bed to prevent wireworms entering from the land outside. We are now trying to eliminate any wireworms already in the bed. We are using potato, one of their favourite foods, to entice them. The potatoes are on sticks which can easily be regularly checked.  We then plan to grow a lettuce crop which we know from experience is another favourite food to see how successful we have been. Fingers crossed.

Incredible Edible

The Incredible Edible team are very much looking forward to resuming activities after Easter. 

Foodsmiles AGM 2020

We had a well-attended zoom AGM at the beginning of March where it was heartening to see so many members who have not been able to gather together in person. In 2020 we grew 2,008kg of vegetables, a small decrease on 2019, remarkable in the circumstances. At Hammonds End we grew 1,414kg and at Hixberry Lane 549kg of vegetables. A new five-year lease has been signed for the Hammonds End site and both Hixberry Lane and the Incredible Edible gardens are doing well.

Special thanks went to the Site Managers, Treasurer, Secretary and existing Committee Members who will all be serving again this year and three new members were welcomed to the committee.

We continue to delay the introduction of new members until more individuals can gather together on-site but look forward to greeting new faces when the opportunity arises. Planning for future events continues to be cautiously considered and details will be shared when we can be more certain that they will take place.

Winter 2020 Newsletter

What a year! But we kept going and growing!

 September saw the last of the summer crops: Aubergine, cucumber, pepper & chilli

Despite the challenges brought about by Covid-19 we have carried on throughout the summer and autumn and are on track across our two sites to have produced around 2,000kg of veg for our members this year.

We have been restricted to fewer members on site so harvesting has taken place on Tuesdays and Wednesday and the Wednesday team have then delivered to local “hubs” for members to pick up.

At Hammonds End we have tidied away the last of the summer crops: tomatoes, cucumber, pepper, aubergine, sweet potatoes, French and runner beans, salad leaves, courgettes, carrots, beetroot, calabrese, tomatillos, boleti beans, fennel and squash but are still left with plenty to come for the winter months.

The End of the Summer Harvest: Squash, Carrots and Tomatillo

Throughout the summer the weather was reasonably kind and whilst the late summer was quite cool meaning plenty of green tomatoes (and a marvellous green tomato cake recipe!) overall we can’t complain too much. Inevitably the runner and french beans blew down again (one year they will stay upright) and we lost quite a bit of calabrese to caterpillars late in the season where the butterflies got under the mesh cover.


Caterpillar Damage to the Calabrese

As the remains of the summer crops were cleared to the compost heaps  we planted a green manure on some of the beds which not only did the bees love, but it also provides some protection to the soil over the winter as it rots down and will also feed the soil.

Phacelia Green Manure next to the Parsnip Bed

Outside we now have winter cauliflower, parsnips, celeriac and plenty of kale to keep us going and for a few more weeks the ever dependable chard and perpetual spinach.

 Celeriac, Kale and Chard

Celeriac and Parsnips harvested in November from Hammonds End, along with Leeks from Hixberry Lane made for a lovely hearty soup

We have now resown the polytunnels which will provide the harvest in the later winter and early spring. They are planted up with beetroot, winter lettuce, winter spinach, pak choi and rocket. We have to net the lettuce to stop the mice eating it.

Polytunnels with their winter planting: still small but will grow over the winter for spring harvest

Jayne, Tony and Ron have also been busy in the polytunnel adding 
a new shelf from a recycled bath side!

The end of summer brought a good harvest of squash at our Hixberry Lane site.   We find them an excellent crop to grow through the mulch of spent hops we use to feed the soil.  We take part in the Farr Brew’s hop collective and delivered the harvest from our 10 dwarf hop plants to the brewery.

Hixberry Squash and Hop Harvest

We have planted onions, garlic, spinach, turnips and mooli to overwinter but unfortunately most of our lettuce in the polytunnel have been destroyed by wireworms. 

Most of our crops for this year have now been harvested.  The Hixberry site is heavy clay and prone to waterlogging and we have to be careful not to damage the soil structure.  As a result we harvest some crops a bit earlier than you otherwise might.  We have dug up our Jerusalem artichokes and have started distributing some good leeks to members.  We continue to harvest chard and still have sprouts and swede to look forward to.

Jerusalem artichokes harvested in the rain at Hixberry

The Incredible Edible gardens have attracted a few new volunteers lately, for which we're grateful, and have really greened up again after the very dry conditions of the summer, with lots of fresh herbs and greens to offer.

  Abundant winter purslane and lambs lettuce now at Incredible Edible Civic Centre

Both gardens will be getting their winter tidy-up in December and we'll collect as many of the fallen leaves as we can to make leaf-mould to improve the soil next year. It's an ongoing struggle trying to find something attractive or useful that will grow in the deep shade under the trees at Russell Avenue, and we're about to try out some ostrich ferns and hostas, both of which have edible shoots in the spring! We'll also be planting lots of lovely cyclamen to brighten the garden up next autumn.

Raspberries now at Incredible Edible Civic Centre


Dates for the Diary:

AGM 2nd March, via Zoom – watch out for an invite by email