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I’ve always loved beautiful gardens and find myself feeling very happy when I have even the tiniest patch to call my own. Years ago I simply had a few troughs planted out on my first floor flat balcony and that progressed to a small but truly spiritual space at the back of my London pad. Now I am indulging in the most wonderful huge garden which is bringing me loads of joy.

The interesting thing is why there is always such a connection between gardening and cheffing. I know that it makes absolute sense that the people who cook your food like to connect with growing your food but I am not convinced it has always been as integrated as it is these days.

Restaurants like Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons and The Star Inn have integrated their gardens and restaurants for years now and I wonder if that is part of the reason they have so many accolades. Others have followed in their droves including the Pig Hotel with their kitchen garden linked to the hotel and many other gastropub owners who have a desire to link the growing garden to the kitchen menu. There is no doubt that the flavours and interest of the menu are enhanced by being able to pluck something straight from under the window outside.

Even in the inner city of London or New York there are chefs finding space to create their own garden and grow their own produce. In London, the rooftop plot at Pied a Terre boasts over 200 plants and the River Cafe continues to propagate their produce from the garden they created back in 1987.

Bello, Book and Candle rooftop garden

Bello, Book and Candle rooftop garden

In New York, Bell Book & Candle have a rooftop aeroponic garden growing their greens and some fruit and and the likes of Rosemary’s, Roberta’s, The LCL and ABC kitchen also follow suit. They are all getting great reviews for finding the shortest route from field to fork with their own roof to table gardens.

There is also a big fashion to having bee hives in inner cities as well. Fortnums have their own hives on their roof which in turn produces their own honey and there is a company called Urban Bees who will help city dwellers set up their own bees and then there’s Hire a Hive which was a business proposition featured on Dragon’s Den which is now going strong.

Food shopping for dinner at Babylonstoren

Food shopping for dinner at Babylonstoren

I find myself pondering what to put in mine and love the idea that you can grow great things to eat that are also wonderful to look at. My gardener in London had some great suggestions. Artichokes are like some sort of prehistoric beast taking over from the earth and cavalo nero is not only imposing and curvaceious but yummy too. Red chard was just lovely adding colour as well as food options and of course peas growing up tripods give height as well as interest.

The two most inspiring examples I have seen on my travels in terms of a growing kitchen shop is Babylonstoren in the winelands of Cape Town and in Rosendals Tradgard in Stockholm.

Rosendals Tradgard in Stockholm

Rosendals Tradgard in Stockholm

I guess it is this connection with the earth and all things that grow from it that inspires us to create good food. I was listening to the latest interview with Dan Barber who is the master of all things from the ground and has now written his next book all about it. He set up Blue Hill at Stone Barns and really has changed the way we could cultivate produce for the better. His work not only with the soil, but also the rotation of planting, is changing the quality of the raw product and by working on different varieties as well, he is discovering some amazing things about veg that you can listen to in that interview. It was inspiring to eat at a restaurant where the first 12 courses were to be eaten with our fingers and 11 of the 24 savoury courses were vegetarian. It was about picking up the most wonderful version of a carrot and eating it straight from the field it was picked in. What more could a chef do to improve on nature?

The fashion to connect more with the grower and produce is reflected in the continued strength of farmers markets across the world. Watching the film Chef last week had Jon Favreau’s character at the LA markets that I so enjoyed and this weekend I was back at the award winning market in Stroud. Once again there was an abundance of seasonal fruit & veg to inspire your cooking. There is no point going there with a list as it is the product that creates the recipes and menus. I was also taken to Jolly Nice which is a lovely concept parked on the side of the street with a great organic stall as well as home baked goods and a funky airstream trailer serving hot food. Who knew that a roadside venue could be so great but here in the Cotswold countryside it really is charming.

Freshly plucked tayberries

Freshly plucked tayberries

We have had the most indulgent weekend cooking with beautiful perfumed tayberries plucked from a friend’s garden, yellow courgettes adding colour to our Sunday afternoon ham hock salad and a delicious goats cheese from the lovely Renee at Windrush Valley Goat Dairy which was a centrepiece to our Saturday lunch browser board.

Windrush Valley Goat Dairy at Stroud market

Windrush Valley Goat Dairy at Stroud market

Just adding some fabulous herbs from the garden to our salad and a frond of fennel in our water made everything seem so much more beautiful not only to look at but to eat. I think by connecting back to the earth you stimulate even more of your senses because your hands have grown it too and there seems to be a heightened smell and taste just because it is so fresh and vibrant.

Ham hock, bean, yellow courgette and lovage salad with honey mustard dressing

Ham hock, bean, yellow courgette and lovage salad with honey mustard dressing

I am going back to my raised beds, plucking the wild strawberries from the mouths of the birds and planning the next phase of planting for my delight and delectation.

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