Words by Jessica Peace
Meet Hannah Grows - a woman on a mission to get you growing and to spread her gardening knowledge into your gardens, kitchens and minds.
Hannah you don many hats, Grower, Farmer, Kew Ambassador, Film Maker... Tell us about your day-to-day?
The beginning of the week starts at Growing Communities Dagenham Farm, where I work as a Food Trainer for their Grown in Dagenham programme. My work varies with the seasons, but I'm always working with plants and people, so I could be planting out salad, picking tomatoes, or teaching the trainees how to make one of our wonderful Dagen jams like Strawberry and Elderflower or Rhubarb and Chai.
Then the end of the week could be filming, which is always a challenge as camera people like to do several shots so I have to keep tidying up in between throwing soil everywhere, or designing someone's garden, going on the campaign trail for Grow Wild, or diving into a school to do some food growing workshops. It's varied, but I love it.
For us lot with only plant pots and window boxes, give us some easy or
interesting edibles to grow?
I love brassica salads. There are tonnes to choose from but one of my fav's for its cool compact appearance and succulent texture is Tatsoi.
Red Mizuna is another beauty, and it has a bit of mustard ancestry too, so the dainty frilly looking leaf can pack a punch in a salad.
Often people just prefer growing flowers to veg, suggest some veg with
sexy flowers for us?
Haha, well okay then. I do love a broad bean flower, a classy black and white number, almost orchid like and completely edible.
I also love seeing a leek go to flower in the field, its spherical form is stunning and the tiny flowers it's composed of are visited by pollinators throughout the summer. But for me, the ideal choice has to be Nasturtium. Their flowers are gorgeous to look at and peppery to taste, the young leaves are fantastic in salads, the big leaves make a mean pesto, and even the seed pods can be pickled like capers.
We love that you live and work in Essex (our studio is just by Epping forest), where would you recommend to go round your neck of the woods?
I'm a fan of Hainault Forest. I like to go in the Summer and walk in the cool shade of the trees and follow the path with opens out onto the field with an amazing view over London. It's a quiet spot, and I love seeing the city from a calm distance.
I also love Beth Chatto's Garden. She is an amazing plantswoman and the nursery there propagates top quality plants from seeds and cuttings taken from the garden. I've got a lovely memory of some beautiful purple autumn crocuses pushing up from beneath a carpet of fallen red leaves. The plants are so beautifully cared for, it reminds me that I'll be learning about plants for the rest of my life.
Finally, tell us why you think we should all get our hands in some soil?
I find growing food empowering, and having ornamentals around completely therapeutic. Truly speaking, since I've had my hands back in the soil, I feel like an anxious frustration that I had for a long time has left me. It just makes you feel good to help something grow, and to be able to observe some of the magic that nature throws our way.