On eating homegrown

It’s difficult to think unpleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato

Lewis Grizzard

Lewis Grizzard was a writer and comedian, famous for his narrative on the American South. From Georgia, USA, Grizzard was proud of his home in the Peach State and he centred his act and writing on celebrating the cultural idiosyncrasies of Southern America, from its people to it’s food.

Now I may have grown up in Southern England instead, but homegrown tomatoes still make me think pleasant thoughts as they smell of home, specifically the greenhouse I played in when I was little. Last year they dotted my garden in London, where they were lovingly tended, by myself and Harry. ‘Garden’ is quite a grand term for a little patch of concrete, but we managed to fit 10 plants in, along with 2 butternut squash plants that tried to take over everything, 1 courgette plant, some lettuce, pak choi, chard, 1 chilli plant and some (failed) broccoli. At one point we were infiltrated by tiny frogs that had grown up in a neighbour’s pond. We struggled with light due to the surrounding houses, so we only got 2 butternut squashes despite the size of the plants and a lot of our tomatoes didn’t ripen, but we made the most delicious green tomato chutney using my great-great-grandmother’s recipe.

If there is one thing that growing our own veg has taught me, it’s that patience is key. There’s a catharsis in gardening, as there is in cooking, which is why I believe that the two so often go hand in hand. Add in a general respect for ingredients, and the pair make for a harmonious relationship. I love seeing this happen not only in gardens and allotments, but also in the increase of farm-to-table restaurants in recent years. Learning about Blue Hill Farm on Chef’s Table filled me with the utmost respect for the Barber family who run and operate it – it would be a dream to be involved.

Fast forward to this year and despite having hardly any outdoor space Harry is becoming a fledgling chilli farmer. We currently have 3 plants sitting on our windowsill in the sitting room, which is the spot that gets the most light in the flat. He tends them lovingly, monitoring their water, pollinating the flowers, feeding them when necessary, and constantly checking for new arrivals. We have: 1 scotch bonnet, 1 cayenne and 1 numex twilight – a whole host of different levels of fruitiness and heat. On the balcony we are focused on herbs: sage, rosemary, mint and lavender as well as strawberry plant whose tendrils are trying to make a break for it. Every time I pick anything we’ve grown it makes me smile. I admit I have a habit of romanticising these things (shock), but I truly believe that anything grown with care gives you pleasant thoughts, not just tomatoes.