22 Sep 2016

Rich Tea

My life as a blogger occasionally takes me to some curious places.


One evening last week, for example, I found myself sipping tea in the company of Harry and David Rich. Who they, do I hear you ask?  Only the brothers who won gold at Chelsea last year with their garden - and shack on tracks - for Cloudy Bay!


Rich Brothers talking about their Chelsea Garden 'Vital Earth, Night Sky' 2014
(Click on link to watch short video)

The personable duo's landscaping business was already keeping them busy but winning at the Chelsea Flower Show two years on the trot augmented their rise to fame and, in the past couple of years, the brothers have been quietly raising their game.  As well as business projects, there was a garden installation for Saatchi's Chanel exhibition, a regular television slot on ITV's This Morning, filming with Charlie Dimmock (remember her?) to make Garden Rescue (there's just time to catch it on BBC iplayer) and now ... a collaboration with Australian tea company T2.

It was the tea connection that got me involved.  I received an email inviting me to an 'urban gardening event' in Chelsea's Kings Road. Intrigued, I asked for more details and learned that T2 were launching a limited edition range of veg patch teas with an in-store autumn garden created for the event by the Rich Brothers. Now we've all come to terms with fruit teas, herb teas and iced tea but vegetable tea? Visions of cabbage water were conjured up in my mind. I felt I should investigate - and I was very curious to see this autumn garden created by two luminaries of the gardening world.

I was pretty sure that the new Veg Patch teas would be delicious - what would be the point otherwise? - and I was right. If you drink juiced fruit and vegetables every day (which I do), the flavours look very appealing.  Of the four flavours Carrot Ginger & Turmeric was my first choice with Apple Kale & Ginger a close second. There are two more flavours: Green Tea + Spinach and Rooibos Beetroot & Broccoli. In the last two flavours, the green tea and rooibos were the dominant flavours but tweaked into deliciousness by the addition of red pepper, lemongrass, coriander and lemon verbena.



I love the concept of using herbs and vegetables to make tea.  I guess most of us have dabbled with freshly picked herbs of peppermint, lemon verbena, ginger and perhaps thyme (good for sore throats) but I would never have thought of adding dried vegetables. It makes a lot of sense when considering the health benefits of the ingredients used - turmeric is a great anti-inflammatory, kale and spinach are great for boosting energy, broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable with great anti-carcinogenic properties. So not only are the teas extremely pleasant to drink (and can be served hot, chilled or mixed into cocktails), they're also good for you. I'm sold - and we gardeners are fond of a cup of tea, are we not?

But did the 'urban garden event' deliver?  I feel very disloyal for saying no, not quite. But read on ... because that's just me. The plants didn't quite add up to my expectation of an autumn garden because, given that the new product was veggie teas, I anticipated raised beds filled with fennel, carrots, beetroot, kale and herbs. Just the sort of thing that Jekka McVicar does so well for her stall at Chelsea Flower Show. (She has her own tea collaboration - I forget with who.)

Perhaps my expectations were too literal. The planting was undoubtedly gorgeous, consisting of several groups of plants in large pots and planters. It was autumn inspired with several myrtle shrubs for their delicious scent, Pennisetum grasses for that gorgeous autumnal golden/pink glow and various Sanguisorbas to bring a berried burgundy to the display.  I gleaned all this from chatting to the two Rich brothers who, incidentally, are charming, funny, entertaining, chatty and very polite.  It's heartening to see that success doesn't seem to have gone to their heads.  I worked lots of questions into the conversation but the main one had to be, "Builder's tea or Veg Patch tea - which would you choose?"  And their answer, genuinely, was that they really like T2 teas, especially the Veg Patch ones. And on that, we agreed.




Veg Patch teas are a limited edition range and can be bought from T2tea.com at a cost of £16 per box. Londoners can see the garden installation at the Chelsea store in the Kings Road until early October.

15 Sep 2016

Plot pickings

As the summer slowly transitions into autumn, is it all doom and gloom?  No, not at all.  In fact it's almost a relief that I no longer have to think about where to squeeze in a few more plants and can start to think about preparing for the winter garden and planning for next year.  I may have felt slightly deflated at the lack of blooms in my last post but that just shows how wrong I was to focus purely on the floriferous feel of the garden.

Evening harvest


High spirits were swiftly restored within a few days by the evening plot pickings.  As with most other veg gardeners, I'm currently able to collect beans, beetroot, chard, radishes, raspberries and Cape gooseberries (delicious but few!) most evenings. As this is small space gardening, I don't get trug loads of produce but tiny tastes are definitely better than none.

We've not done too badly this summer; there's usually enough for me and my occasional helper to have a bowlful of beans and raspberries every week at the moment - and plenty of beans and plot courgettes to hand round to a few neighbours. I like to share when I can, there would be no joy in keeping it all in the freezer for myself.

The courgettes that I planted out rather later than recommended are putting out small fruits; I don't mind as I've already had a courgette/marrow overload from my plot neighbour up at the allotments. And I read of a good tip recently - if you cut off the first tiny fruits, the plant is encouraged to pump out lots more larger sized fruit.  I've done as suggested so we'll see ... and the tiny courgettes have been sliced and added to a creamy bacon and courgette tagliatelle. (Waitrose recipe here, if you're interested.)

The beetroot has been really successful this year (Baby Bona from Chiltern Seeds).  I've been picking plump round beets with a sweet taste - perfect for my morning juice.  (Yes! Beetroot in a juice! It's really delicious in a juice with apples, carrot, lemon, broccoli stem, cucumber and yellow pepper. Yummy and energising!)

So far I've restricted myself to picking only the 'french' beans that I'm growing and saving the Borlotti beans to plump up.  I'm growing 'Cobra' climbing beans which are aptly named;  they're normally pencil straight but, where I've missed a few, they've grown fat and curled round on themselves - more boa constrictor than cobra but the similarity is amusing.

Borlotti beans

The Borlottis, on the other hand, are perplexing me.  I've seen so many pictures of brightly coloured pink and cream pods - surely one of the reasons to grow them! Mine, however, are pale green pods that occasionally mature to sport some magenta streaks. Is this usual?  It's definitely not what I was expecting. Will they eventually turn pink?  Is there a reason that some pods are streaked and others not?  If you know, do tell.

Of course I may not get any mature Borlottis at all if the munching molluscs keep at it.  Leaves and pods at the top of the plants have been decimated - the slime trails tell their own story.  I mean, really, six feet off the ground - the very cheek of it!

munched bean
This is one of the tinier munchings - there are pods that are positively naked on the other side. Grrr.

So all I can say is .... thank goodness for broccoli. (Maybe I should get some fleece over that.)

broccoli


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