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Springtime growing

From potatoes to strawberries, you can get started on nurturing an abundance of different fruits and vegetables By Katie White

After the long cold winter, we all can feel that sense of rejuvenation in the spring air, and the plants can, too. In spring, nature is re-awakening and in doing so bringing new life to the environment.

Seeds that have been laying dormant underground now feel an urge to unfurl, and trees who shed their leaves to conserve energy through winter once more start to put out new leaves to take in the sunshine's rays. This is why now is the time to plant seeds for your garden.

Spring also brings us some seasonal produce that we can only enjoy at this time of year and its blooms can inspire new creativity in the kitchen.

Seed inside

Now is the not only the time to plant spring crops but also to plant crops that will be harvested in Summer. Although it is still too cold to plant many of these summer crops straight in the garden, we can get them started in seed trays inside.

Growing plants from seed is not only an enjoyable journey, it's a great way to give them a head start so that they are ready to be planted out in late spring when the weather is warm enough for them to thrive.

Plant seeds in seed trays or even recycled plastic containers or boxes in either a green house, well-lit laundry room or even your kitchen windowsill. As long as they get adequate light and a gentle watering most days, they will do well.

Solanaceae's include tomatoes, chillies and peppers and these are summer crops that can get started inside now. Another plant family that will sprout at this time of year is the cucurbit family within which pumpkins, cucumbers and courgettes belong.

Other crops that can be planted in spring are beets, carrots, lettuce and spring onions, as well as brassicas which including kale and broccoli. Brassica seeds are very small so it can be best to plant them as bought seedlings straight out into your garden.

Potatoes

An age-old staple crop, potatoes are such a wonderful veg and are also considered soil conditioners because they improve the soil as they grow. One of the biggest risks to potatoes is frost, which kills their leaves, therefore, killing the plant.

However, potatoes prefer to start growing underground, so you can plant them earlier in the season because they won't pop above the soil until later in the season when the weather is warmer.

With this in mind, plant yourself a crop of potatoes as early as March for a delicious new potato harvest in May.

When my grandad was a boy, the climate was a lot cooler, and it was very risky to plant potatoes this early as many crops could be destroyed by frost as late as June!

However, for better or worse, these days that is very unlikely due to a warmer climate and we can enjoy potatoes much earlier in the year.

Once summer is in sight, plant out your eager little seedlings that have been growing inside. Remember it's always important to give your soil some TLC before a new planting season.

Fertiliser

When fertilising new spring crops, you may consider using a standard fertiliser without a second thought, however some of these products may not actually be vegan. For example, you may unknowingly be using a liquid fertiliser with fish emulsion in it.

Just like food products, always read the labels and check the product is vegan. These products are easily replaced with vegan alternatives and there are many other ways to naturally improve your soil including:

• Homemade compost

• Mushroom mulch

• Seaweed emulsion

Asparagus

Possibly the ultimate spring treat is asparagus, which from May to June will be poking up its delicious spears from its crown below the ground. Asparagus is always in the ground, it just only shows itself during spring.

Strawberry and rhubarb

If you have an established strawberry patch you may be lucky enough to start picking strawberries now and it's safe to presume that store bought strawberries are British at this time of year.

If you have rhubarb planted in your garden it tends to rejuvenate itself around now and will be sending out lovely new shoots to pick.

Fortuitously, strawberries and rhubarb go beautifully together, so it's wonderful that they are abundant at the same time of year.

Edible flowers

Something you may want to try more of this Spring is edible flowers. There are a lot of edible flowers and some of them you may already have growing in your garden without realising you can eat them!

Not only do these make food look amazing they are also full of all the same health benefits as fruits and vegetables.

Which kinds of flowers are edible?
Always refer to Google or a book to be sure the flower you have is indeed one from the list below. These are a few of the most common kinds of edible flowers.

• Calendulas
• Corn flower
• Rose petals
• Orange blossoms
• Pansies
• Nasturtium

Rhubarb, Strawberry &
Rose Jelly & Custard
A deliciously tempting treat to make with your springtime produce or seasonal supermarket goodies.

For the custard:
• 1 cup coconut cream
• 100g (3.5 oz) sugar
• 240ml (8 fl oz) plant-based milk
• 3 tbsp cornflour
• 1/2 a tsp vanilla paste

For the jelly:
• 4 stalks of rhubarb
• 100g (3.5 oz) caster sugar
• 4 large strawberries
• 240ml (8 fl oz) water
• 60ml (2 fl oz) white wine

• ¼ cup rose petals
• ½ tsp rose essence (optional)
• 80g Jell-It-In vegan gelatine

1. Make the custard first by combining all of the custard ingredients in a saucepan, whisking well to combine, then turning the heat on.

2. Stir constantly until it gets very thick, then pour it evenly into 4 tumbler glasses.

3. Put in the fridge to set.

4. Chop the rhubarb stalks into cubes and put them in a small baking tray along with the strawberries, caster sugar and water.

5. Bake covered, either with a lid or foil for half an hour, then let cool.

6. Strain the fruit mix through an almond milk bag or fine sieve to extract all the juice.

7. Pour the juice into a small saucepan and add the white wine, rose petals and Jell-It-In, then turn the heat on and bring to the boil.

8. Working quickly as the Jell-It-In will set very fast, transfer the jelly into a pouring jug and evenly pour it over the set custards.

9. Leave in the fridge for another couple of hours before serving.

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Recipe and words by Katie White, AKA Olive Wood Vegan, @olivewoodvegan.
You'll also find Katie on episode one of the Vegan Life Magazine Podcast, listen at veganlifemag.com/vegan-podcast.

VeganLife

The lifestyle magazine written by vegans for vegans.