Thoughts from August 2011

best in show

The allotment hut

Back in March, our SJ and her partner, Steph, took over a half plot on the Granville Park allotment site.

Their plot was overgrown, very weedy and in need of some love (and a lot of digging).

Couch grass mountain

Fast forward lots of hard graft to August and it’s now bursting with fruit, veg and a smart new shed.

Allotment 011

Our new shed

Last weekend, SJ and Steph entered their finest cauliflower (back row, second along), some courgettes and a giant potato into the annual Granville Allotment competition.

Allotment 018

Sadly, they didn’t win any prizes (mainly because the board was swept by old timers Derek, Sue (best flowers) and Granville (onions) but they got to pick up loads of tips, learn just how big an onion can grow and taste a lot of homemade jam.

Tea time

This is Granville's winning onion (his name has no influence over the competition whatsoever. Allegedly)

The winning giant onion

Steph did win the 'Guess the Weight of the Cake' cake, correctly guessing it weighted 6.2kg.

So they didn’t go home empty handed.

Guess the weight of the cake

Granville Park have been so impressed with SJ and Steph's efforts that they've since given them the other half plot next to theirs to tend.

Both SJ and Steph are now busy planning what to plant for next year, reading The Little Book of Slugs and figuring out how to whup Granville in 'Best Onion' next year.

If you're a green fingered sort and have any top tips on anything from broad bean husbandry through to clever planting or raised beds made easy, please post your tips below and SJ will try the best ones out.

You might even get a special invite along to next year's show (or a pot of homemade jam) by way of thanks.

angel delight

This is Steve

Steve calm

Steve is a bit of a grown up* here at innocent and today he thought he’d take a moment out from his very busy job to cover the front desk for our Office Angels

Have you ever wondered who picks up the banana phone?
Well now you know

And, as we’re sure Steve would tell you, the key to answering the banana phone is to keep calm

Steve not so calm

Given the look on Steve’s face, we’d like to see him when he panics

*Operations Director, if we’re being precise

a sustainable diet - simon talks savings

Simon works in our finance team and for 4 years was responsible for buying all the fruit that goes in our smoothies – he knows some stuff about buying food (albeit that on his buying trips he sported some questionable headwear – he’s on the left).

Growing your own fruit & vegetables

You don’t need lots of space to grow your own food. It’s amazing what you can get out of a plant pot and things seem to grow even in fairly poor soil. We only have a small yard. At the end of April we planted: 10 tomato plants, 2 courgette plants and half a dozen different herbs. Next year we aim to increase the range once I’ve put in a new vegetable bed.

The courgettes have been phenomenal – between the 2 plants for the last eight weeks we have had a good sized courgette every other day. We had our first tomato last week. The plants are dripping in fruit. We staggered when we planted so I think we will get 8-10 weeks without having to buy a single tomato from the shops. We use fresh herbs daily and they really lift dishes.

The total plant cost was around ~£25. I predict if I bought this fruit, it might cost upwards of £50.

Pick your own fruit & veg

Living in London with such easy access to food, we have lost sight of picking our own produce – it seems to be a hazy memory of our childhood. We took our 16 month old daughter to a PYO Farm. We bought: raspberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries, strawberries, beetroot, carrots, parsley, courgettes, cauliflower, cabbage, potatoes, broad beans.

We ate the vegetables and strawberries fresh (NB broad beans once blanched freeze well). Raspberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries freeze really well. (NB Best thing is to freeze them on metal trays first and then transfer them to bags so they hold their shape). Everything was amazingly fresh. We picked 4 BIG supermarket recycle bags full of produce. Total cost was £62. I estimate that from the supermarket this would have been £200+

Using class 2 fruit

As consumers we have all come to expect total uniformity in the produce we buy. This drive for perfectionism means there is often unnecessary waste at the farm level. Almost all ‘second grade’ fruit or veg is fresh - it’s just a bit misshapen – does this matter? When you get your fruit and veg at the market you will need to check the quality a little more carefully than the supermarket but typically >80% of it is great.

There are big big savings here. I predict market fruit and veg is possible 50% cheaper than the supermarket. It’s also great having an interaction with other shoppers and stall holders. There are some amazing characters at markets and you can pick up some good recipe ideas from them

Cooking from scratch

We’re all busy and there could be a view that cooking from scratch is too time consuming. But in line with Jamie Oliver’s 30 minute cooking, it needn’t be. For example making fresh bread – once you’ve made your own bread it will be hard for you to ever go back to ready-made. And it’s a myth that you need lots of equipment, a bread maker or a special oven. My recommendation is to get into sourdough bread for the fantastic depth of flavour, brilliant rising capabilities and amazing texture. Use any excess starter/dough to make pizza. It makes such good pizza that your guests will think you have trained in Naples.

Simon - italian chef
You also know you are not eating any nasties because you are controlling what goes in and it’s definitely cheaper. I reckon a batch of 6 loaves costs me £2. The equivalent quality pre-made would be £9. NB spare loaves freeze well.

“I usually add enough salt to grit a road in 2 ft of snow. I have cut it altogether and don't miss that either”

Simon - salt
Put all these thoughts together and cooking/eating becomes much more interesting, more sustainable and definitely cheaper. Brekkie is usually home baked bread, lunch is a Tupperware salad box and supper some sort of carbohydrate/vegetable base with a little meat a few days a week. Maybe we have a proper piece of meat once every few weeks.

a tiny friday creative drama

[The Creative Corner on the 4th floor of a tower somewhere in West London, just before 4 o’clock on Friday afternoon.]


“That’s not my plastic bag. It’s Tim’s”

“Shut up. It’s not mine”

“Yes it is. It’s got your tomato sticker from lunch on it. And all these cups – they are not mine.”

“ Yeah, well they’re not mine either, Annika.”

“Yes they are”

“No, they’re not. This one’s got tea in it and I’ve not had tea in ages. What, so you're saying people come and put their cups on your desk in the night?”

“Seriously they are not mine. I don’t drink 3 cups a day. And see all these books? That’s Gurdeep’s, that’s Amy’s and that is someone else’s. Seriously, people just come and put stuff on my desk.”

“Oh really?”

“Yeah. Coz’ people just like sitting in my seat, okay?”

[Silence. Knowing looks. Pointed shuffling of tea cups. More silence. More pointed crockery shuffling]