Award-winning Growing Communities is an organic project in every sense of the word. With deep roots in the Hackney community, the not-for-profit project runs a highly successful veg box scheme as well as nurturing beautiful growing spaces across the borough. Growing Communities have three market gardens – Allens Gardens, Springfield Park and Clissold Park – as well as the brilliant Patchwork Farm, small scraps of urban Hackney land transformed into micro gardens which help supply the veg boxes with their health-giving bounty.
Eat Hackney has just joined the veg box scheme – you nominate a pick-up point to collect your shopping, and are given the code to access a shed bursting with bags of fruit and veg. The collection process itself is communal and even conspiratorial with veg swaps and recipe-related chat, and the seasonal produce promotes varied cooking and eating: this week’s haul included a fat yellow squash, a corn cob sheathed in leaves, sweet plums and crunchy apples. A constant is the bag of Hackney salad comprising deliciously varied lettuce leaves and herbs grown in the borough.
Twenty years old this year, Growing Communities also operate the Stoke Newington Farmer’s Market at St Paul’s churchyard where you buy direct from small producers in and around London. You’ll find raw milk and cheeses at the market, plus seasonal organic fruit, veg and herbs, sourdough bread from the Better Health Bakery, outlandish mushrooms, gorgeous cakes, Turkish borek, seafood, meat and homemade pasta. And as well as supporting farmers and growers, Growing Communities has an apprentice system and helps other groups across the UK create their own box schemes.
Growing Communities have passed on some favourite seasonal recipes: beetroot and walnut hummus, chilli and anchovy kale pasta and rich chocolate ganache berry squares… See their website for more recipe inspiration. Tuck in Hackney, and many happy returns to Growing Communities.