West London Chef Thomas Straker urges urban foodies to grow their own veg this summer

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West London Chef Thomas Straker is urging Londoners to make use of their window sills this summer and embrace the joy of seasonal produce.

Thomas, who trained at the Dorchester and under Heston Blumenthal before becoming a worldwide foodie phenomenon with his inventive butter recipes, is keen to highlight the ‘simplicity and joy’ of growing vegetables from seed.

His Notting Hill restaurant, Strakers, is known for celebrating the best in seasonal fruit and vegetables, consciously sourcing ingredients from the UK and Europe and changing his menus based on what is delicious and available now. 

What to grow now in your window sill allotment

  1. Radishes: Great for adding more bite to salads, this little pink crop can be ready in a matter of weeks. All you need is a container with drainage holes and seeds spaced three centimetres apart,then covered with a dusting of seed compost.
  2. Mixed lettuce, spinach, and kale: Seeds or plug plants can be bought online easily for these simple varieties. For the window sill, lettuces like ‘little gem’ or ‘butterhead’ can be suitable for small spaces. Containers with drainage holes are a must and there should be sunlight for at least six hours a day. Use a high-quality potting mix with added feed for seeds and seedlings and you’ll have a summer salad ready to pick in three to six weeks.
  3. Cress: Cress can be grown at any time of year, scattering a teaspoon of seeds on damp paper or cotton wool in a saucer or plastic tub. These peppery leaves can be harvested in five days, snipped and added to salads and sandwiches.
  4. Courgettes:  Each individual seed can get started on window sills in pots that are 7.5cm in width, but each young plant will need to be transferred into a 45cm pot  to yield their full potential of crop. You can enjoy courgettes within six weeks and add them to a delicious ratatouille with Italian tomatoes and aubergines.
  5. Herbs: There are any number of herbs that you can grow on your window sill that can liven up pasta dishes or sauces. I love the combination for my lemon and herb butter recipe; parsley, chives, dill, basil and mint can all be grown easily from seed. The key is making regular sowings to ensure a long harvest over the summer months and keep soil moist, do not let it dry out.

Don’t forget foraging

Thomas says: “British nettles and wild garlic are great at this time of year and are easy to forage. Seek out your local community shared allotment and discover where you can find extra foodie freebies and get creative in the kitchen.”

“Recipes with British nettles that I love to make include a flatbread with fontina cheese, made from cow’s milk, topped with washed nettle leaves”

“It’s important to wear rubber gloves when separating the edible leaves from the stalks, which should be discarded, and then give the leaves a thorough wash in a colander under cold running water.”

“If you’d prefer to cook the nettles, they can be blended into delicious soups or pureed to make green pasta dough.”

The tips come as Thomas’s business successes go from strength to strength as his butter brand, All Things Butter, has just secured £2.2m in seed funding to roll out into additional national retailers and establish an international supply chain.

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