London in a jar
Cities aren’t renowned for food production. The arrival of the railways, in fact, pushed food production out of the city and disconnected city dwellers, on the whole, from where their food came from. But there’s a Renaissance afoot and the chutney we’re offering customers this Christmas is a testament to the wave of change.
We at Local Greens regularly provide salad grown in South London to our customers. This year, we’re able to offer our customers an even greater taste of London. We’ve teamed up with Crystal Palace Transition Town, a community group who’ve sparked a food revolution in South London and are pushing the boundaries when it comes to question: ‘can London feed us?’
We commissioned the group to create a Christmas Chutney for us and they’ve delivered something that is not only packed with London fruits (veg and spice) but it also has an incredible story. Here’s a taster, as detailed by local food writer Rachel de Thample, who coordinated production of the chutney:
“* Apples - were windfalls from a park in Sydenham, where Laura (one of the chutney makers) volunteers and the other bulk of them are from Spa Hill Allotment. I contacted the manager of the allotment and hit gold as he told me there was a vacant plot that had three laden apple trees on it.
* Pears - from Laura's Sydenham park
* Rosehips - from Spa Hill Allotment. We put the rosehips in not only to lend a ruby hue to the chutney, but also for their gorgeous lip-puckering tang. They work really well in the chutney - the processed them into a paste and swirled it into the chutney right at the end, keeping it really fresh and vibrant.
* Figs - from Karen and Lynette's gardens (both helped make the chutney) -- the figs we used were green figs. One of our jam/chutney makers is Iranian and told us how to process green figs. They're rather interesting - they taste a bit like green beans, which worked rather well in the chutney and figs, of course, are quite Christmassy (figgy pudding and all that...)
* Plums - from Rosendale Allotment where Karen and I are doing a course. The first day of our course, we toured the allotment and was shocked by the amount of fruit that wasn't being picked. We sent a message around about our project and was offered a bundle of plums from one of the plot holders, Pek Choo. As you probably know, the allotment is just around the corner from where you pack.
* Onions - excitingly, we were able to get onions from the flagship Captial Growth allotment in Regent's Park. We collected about 5kg of red onions and shallots from them. We also bought some onions from Brockwell Park's Community Greenhouse. We did a chutney making session with some elderly visitors to the Lambeth Day Centre and told them about our project and they've said they'd grow onions for us next year.
* Leeks - we fell short of onions in the end and decided to pick some leeks from Karen's garden. They went from the ground and into the chutney in less than 1hr.
* Garlic - from my garden share, some of the garlic used is really sweet Elephant Garlic cloves.
* Bay leaves - picked from Karen's garden. We ground the fresh bay leaves to a powder and it lends a very Christmassy (almost piney) flavour to the chutney.
* Alexanders seeds - these are amazing. The Romans were very fond of Alexanders and planted them all over England, mostly along the coast. I discovered the spice last year when I was doing a foraging course in Kent. I did the course to gather ingredients for my Christmas dinner, which was almost 100% grown and gathered last year. We've just started creating a Permaculture Garden near my house and as we were clearing the site, I discovered a heap of Alexanders growing at the back of the garden, so we collected and ground these for the chutney. Taste-wise, they're very Christmassy: a cross between Frankincense, black pepper and cloves. They totally transformed the chutney, along with the rosehips and bay.
* Chillies - the chilies are sundried from Karen's garden.
* The other spices (crystallised ginger, cinnamon and cloves) used are Fairtrade and organic, as it the sugar and the Aspall's vinegar was bought from a local, independent shop.
A few other lovely parts of our chutney-making story is where we made it and with whom. The bulk of the chutney was made at the kitchen of our local pub, the Grape & Grain. They've kindly let us use their kitchen on Mondays as they don't cook on that day.