Grown in Wales

Grown in WalesGrown in WalesGrown in Wales

27

February

Do one thing well

Charles Warner

Last year we built a house. At least, we finished building a house. This year we are building a home.

I have spent 40 years growing plants in some form or another. I begged my parents to let me take over the family allotment when I was eight and I bought packets of seed and bags of compost and I would sit for hours in the family greenhouse on sunny spring days watching the seeds start to germinate and pricking them out into trays. Always the entrepreneur, I sold the trays of veg and bedding plants outside the family home and I got quite a reputation for it especially as I was so young. It kept me in pocket money until girls and cider began to be more interesting.

Most people don’t seem to think about the industry behind their purchase of a plant. I have seen it change from small family businesses where the knowledge of growing plants was paramount to the situation today where factory style plant production on a global scale is dominant. Your pot plant on the window sill may have started life in Costa Rica or the Phillipines. It may have passed through Italian or African nurseries . It may have had another life in a glasshouse in Israel. When I chose to start my own nursery to supply the households of Wales with herbs for their gardens I knew that I was competing for space on garden centre benches with huge businesses with rescources of which I could only dream. I had to do the thing that they couldn’t.

Food is so much more than sustenance or at least it ought to be. That’s why it can be a battle ground in the family home. Food, when it is prepared properly, is love. When we make a loaf for a friend or a lasagne for the family it’s love that we are giving. It’s the missing ingredient in your frozen ready meal though the adverts try to convince us otherwise. When we make food with love it shows. I grow herbs because I use them. Every day I use at least one fresh herb. It might be some rosemary to put in some foccacia or some thyme to put in a chicken stock. It could be some Moroccan mint to make sweet tea or some parsley to brighten up a bowl of pasta. The fresh, garden herbs that I chop on a board and throw into the food that I prepare is just a part of what makes the food stand out. It’s part of the love. I’m not here to criticise the factory style plant production. It’s out there and all of us have seen and bought its produce but down in our little corner of Wales we wanted to put a bit of that love into our produce. It’s the detail that makes the difference. We grow only herbs. We don’t buy our seedlings and cuttings in from Israel, we grow our own. We don’t pot the plants on a machine, we pot them by hand and we don’t spray them with growth regulators to keep the leaves small and uniform, we open and close the glasshouse doors to regulate the temperature instead. We wear out the knees of our jeans because we are down there on the floor carefully watching the seedlings for early signs of fungal infection. And if we see it we move the little tender plants to somewhere cooler so that they harden up and fight the fungus themselves. We do this every day because the plants don’t know when it’s a bank holiday and a day of attention missed is a day when those little plants are vulnerable. I’m a poor guitar player and I’ve not yet cracked a proper chocolate mousse but when I take my plants to a new garden centre for the first time I can see by the owners face that I can grow a decent herb. All the extra effort that we put in shows in their expression and I hope in the expressions of those that plant out their gardens and finally sprinkle some of our love onto their food.

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