Growing Communities

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 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 scheme with health-giving bounty.

Eat Hackney has just joined the veg 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 recipes: beetroot and walnut hummus and rich chocolate ganache berry squares… See their website for more recipe inspiration. Tuck in Hackney, and many happy returns to Growing Communities.


Beetroot and walnut hummus

This is a vegan and gluten-free recipe.

  • 50g walnuts
  • 1 tbsp cumin seed
  • 220g beetroot, cooked (but not in vinegar)
  • 1 tbsp tahini or smooth peanut butter
  • garlic clove, sliced finely
  • juice of a lemon
  • olive or rape seed oil

Dry-roast the walnuts in a frying pan for 5 mins until fragrant, then dry-roast the cumin in another pan. Blitz the nuts in a processor until a fine crumb.

Add the beetroot, tahini, most of the garlic and cumin, half the lemon juice and a little salt. Blend to a thick paste. Taste and adjust flavour to suit, adding salt and a little oil to loosen the mixture if required.

Keeps in the fridge for a few days.

Chocolate ganache berry squares

The ganache is optional – but highly recommended.

  • 90g oats
  • 50g mixed nuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup fruit (or golden) syrup
  • 1/3 cup dessicated coconut
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen berries, or other fresh fruit

For the chocolate ganache

  • 1/2 cup almond (or soy) milk
  • 2 tbsp fruit (or golden) syrup
  • 200g plain chocolate, broken into pieces

Mix the oats, nuts, peanut butter, oil, syrup, coconut and vanilla extract in a bowl, then press into a baking tin. Gently heat the milk and syrup, then add the chocolate and stir till smooth. Cool slightly before pouring over the base. Scatterthe berries over the mix and cool the whole thing in the fridge for 2-3 hours, if you can wait that long.

Ganache squares

Ganache squares

Ganache squares uncut

Ganache squares uncut