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Botanic Gardens shares tips on how to grow food at home

Eyleen Gomez

Bridging World Earth Day on April 22 and World Ocean’s Day on June 8 the Chronicle aims to run a series of articles that hope to help address the various ways people can ‘Restore Our Earth’, this week its growing plants at home. Chronicle reporter Eyleen Gomez spoke to Gibraltar Botanic Gardens Education Officer Shawna Jones about how to grow food at home

Shawna Jones, hails from America and since arriving on the Rock last August she has been helping children learn about plants especially fruits, vegetables and herbs.

During a walking tour of the two patches within the gardens Ms Jones told the Chronicle that growing food is not only easy, its tastier too.

“I like to have edible gardens but I like to have aesthetically pleasing gardens also,” she said.

“Vegetable gardens do grow nicely in perfect rows but at the same time I want them to be interesting. Especially as I think it is fun for kids to walk around and discover different things.”

“So if they have to find the strawberry versus it being with all the strawberries I think it makes it more of a discovery in it.”

It is evident that many vegetables are good neighbours when planted beside each other and a good example of this is peas can grow upwards with the help of a thin climbing frame made from something like an electrical wire and carrots can grow underneath them.

While carrots do need more depth than length, they are limited by their space so it is possible to grow them in a plant pot. Beans also grow like peas and are fast growing, they just need room to grow upwards and curl around something.

In Ms Jones’s garden there is something to suit all palates and many items that can be planted on balconies and even window boxes especially in the case of herbs.

One interesting item growing in the garden is nasturtium, a plant from the horseradish family that is a little spicy.

The beautiful flower comes in different colours such as red and yellow and can be eaten.

“The more you chew it the more the flavour comes out. You eat the whole thing, you eat the leaves, it is an amazing plant and it grows really prolifically here,” said Ms Jones.

“It is easy to grow and if anything it becomes a bit of a problem as it can take over.”

“Kids really like them. Once they get over being weirded out that they are eating flowers then they really like them.”

This plant is also not toxic to dogs and cats.

Amongst the herbs she grows is the fresh fragrant lemon thyme.

“It is a really pretty plant but it is low growing so it can get shaded out but it is ok with that,” she said.

Lavender is also an option.

“There are seven main families of lavender and we use them from different things, some are used for cooking others for sachets and oils and things like that,” she said.

Lavender is often used to aid sleep or help people feel calm.

Rosemary, mint and even chocolate mint or orange mint are options.

“Mint is one of those things if you let it do its thing it will take over,” she said.

Coriander is also easy to grow and its white flowers are easily used to grow more in pots.

Growing basil and tomatoes at the same time means you always have the ability to make a tasty bruschetta or something similar.

Vegetables

Cucumbers are easily planted from seeds and also like to vine so they need the room vertically to do that.

Lettuce can be grown from the seed, which is stage one, then the next stage is the flower stage before the final stage of when it is ready to eat.

“Lettuces have a very short life cycle so when you cut them a couple of times they are done. But they do grow fast,” said Ms Jones.

Purple tomatoes are just one variety of tomato that can be grown.


Leeks are also easy to grow.

“They are really cool because they are one you can buy from the grocery store, cut off the top of them and plant them and regrow them again,” she said.

“Leeks, celery, cabbage, beetroot are the same.”

Garlic can be grown from the clove and onions, spring onions, can also be used to produce roots and new plants.

Ms Jones refers to a dish that people back in America make from celery.

“We usually eat it with peanut butter and raisins on it and we call it ‘ants on a log’.”

Spinach, cabbage and bok choy are also plants that grow well in Gibraltar.

Butternut squash is not only a nice vegetable to grow and eat, its flower is also edible and has a buttery taste to it.

Fruits

Strawberries do not have to be big to be tasty, some varieties are small but pack one delicious punch.

Pineapples can grow from an existing pineapple if you cut the top off and plant it.
Pomegranates are easy to grow in Gibraltar also.

Plants

Other plants that can be grown, but depending on space, are avocados which will grow out of a flower if it has been pollenated.

An almond tree is ideal for Gibraltar’s climate. The large fruit the tree bares contains the nuts inside. The tree is also known for being aesthetically pleasing with its almond blossom.

Another option for those with plenty of space is artichokes.

“They are big and spikey and in the thistle family, which I particularly like because they have a big blow up and have a purple flower at the end which is really pretty,” Ms Jones said.

“But, they do get tall and wide and will put out big stalks and at the end there will be a flower which will become the artichoke.

Valerian is also an option. It is used to make “sleepy time tea” and they grow well with vegetables such as peppers.

“The grow well with plants from the spicy family which I think is the yin and the yang,” said Ms Jones.

Valerian is good for kidney and digestion she also noted.

“I am at the point where there is a plant for every ailment,” she added.

“Why would I buy something I can grow myself because a packet of seeds are significantly cheaper,” she said.

Ms Jones added she is aware space is limited in Gibraltar but that anyone can grow plants and the number of plants they grow are just limited to the space they have available.



Are you growing your own fruit, vegetables or herbs? Perhaps you are making it a family project with the children? Send the Chronicle your photos to features@chronicle.gi and to be featured in the paper.

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