Growers’ Corner

May 4, 2018 by Tor Park

16th October 2019

This month’s Grower’s Corner introduces our fabulous new grower Billy Styles.

Hello! I’m looking forward to updating you regularly on the growing spaces at the farm, but just as a quick intro, I thought I’d fill you in a bit about my background.

After completing an MA in Sustainable Cities, I moved to Japan where I worked on a range of small holdings. It was there that I learned the practical applications of Permaculture and was introduced to the wonderful world of organic Japanese vegetable growing.

Upon my return to the UK I continued to work with Japanese vegetables at Namayasai, a 30 acre organic farm in East Sussex who supply high end restaurants across London.

I also have a background as a yoga teacher, and have been introducing more of a mindful approach to farming. I’ve been encouraging my regular team of volunteers to bring more awareness to their actions as they go about their jobs, thereby enhancing their connection to nature.

Matching my outfit with the radish harvest!

I’ve also been to keen to strengthen and develop the relationship with the restaurants we supply our produce to – which is currently Rochelle’s Canteen at the ICA and our amazing farm cafe The Humble Bee.

I recently invited the chefs for a taste tour of the garden. The reaction was incredible! The chefs were so excited and inspired and after getting the chance to experience first hand some of the more unusual varieties that we’re growing here, they’ve since been ordering a much larger range of produce from us.

This month we’ve been busy harvesting:

    • Rainbow chard
    • Mixed salad
    • Kale
    • Apples
    • Figs
    • Jerusalem artichokes

      Harvesting some Jerusalem Artichokes with Horticultural Trainee Beth

    • Chillies
    • Crab apples
    • Rosehips
    • Sloes
    • Raspberries
    • Blackberries
    • Squashes
    • Courgettes
    • Beetroots
    • Radishes
    • Basil
    • Sage
    • Tarragon
    • Lemon Verbena
    • Mint
    • Salt bush
    • Vivid choi
    • Fat hen

I’m really excited to have the opportunity over the next few months to work with our Horticulture Trainer Tiffany on the plan for the new growing space. I’ll be introducing some Japanese vegetables into the growing plans as well as more heritage, heirloom varieties from the UK.

A delicious haul of squashes in all sizes, shapes and colours

If you’d like to try our delicious, local, freshly-picked, naturally-grown produce come along to the farm shop on Saturday mornings. See you there!

Next months Grower’s Corner will introduce our Horticulture Trainer Tiffany Landamore and the traineeship programme.


17th April 2019


Due to the warm weather in February the over winter salad leaves and cooking greens started growing back sooner than usual and then surged earlier than they should.

Unfortunately an early surge is then followed by an early bolting (plants going to seed) and the tricky period of judging when to gradually take the old plants out and replace with new ones while maintaining quality. We have managed this so far but the recent cold weather has slowed the growth of the newly planted out crops. 

The new crops going in are mainly salad, both in the outdoor new season salad beds and as “catch crops” in the tunnels (short interim crops between the overwinter ones coming out and the new ones going in).


We are still selling to Rochelles Canteen at The ICA and restaurant at The Stores X on the strand.

We have started selling to Jess and Jack who run Tower Green Hamlets veg box scheme, and aim to have at least one item in all their boxes every week. Over the last two weeks they’ve bought 200 endives from us.

Cut flowers

We will aim to increase sales of cut flowers this year with more variety. Growing them mainly in areas not suitable for food growing (next to the road for example) as well as in the café area. They will bring in more income to support the charitable objectives of the Farm, increase pollinators – and make the farm look lovely 🌼

“Wild” areas

Wild plants are able to grow wherever possible to increase biodiversity, and provide for wild life, as a balance to the food growing. This has meant leaving wild plants in the food beds would be regarded as weeds, e.g nettles, dead nettles, purple dead nettle, teezels, speedwell, alcanette, comfrey and mallow; all vital for bees, butterflies and other insects. Also poppies which you will particularly notice in the bed at the end of the office. These will start to flower in the next few weeks and look spectacular. Once they’ve died back we’ll replace with cut flowers.

The Big Dig ( or No Dig in our case)

We will be running a stall for this on Saturday April 28th between 11am and 3pm

So far planned:

  • Selling plants and produce
  • Salad leaf tasting  and tasting a few things made with produce
  • Sharing gardening info
  • Giving out info about Tower Green Hamlets box scheme 
  • Running a mini activity for children, potting up a sunflower seed or cutting to take home for a £1 donation.
  • 1 or 2 tours of the growing spaces

2nd March 2019

New plants coming soon

Farm compost

Farm compost

For natural compost look no further! Compost is great for improving the structure and texture of soil. It contains nutrients for healthy plant growth. Just £4 from the Farm! 

Another 21st September 2018 update from Shelagh – one of our team of growers:

I’m delighted to let you know that we are now supplying our local box scheme, Tower Green Hamlets with our veg! Which this week will feature some of our bumper crop of chillies in every bag.

Tower Green Hamlets is a family run Organic Fruit and Veg Box Scheme that provides weekly deliveries across East London. They use produce from local farmers including Sarah Green Organics and Stepney City Farm and aim to run with zero waste. Prices start from £10 per week. More info at

And in Farm news… The planting of the outside beds is almost complete with the inside spaces next.

The poly-tunnel nearest to the café is a transitional, between seasons, mess with the last of the summer squash and new direct sown spinach coming through.

Harvest wise, we’re still picking around 15 kg of tomatoes a week and the sold 6.25kg of chillies: 2kg to the two restaurants (The Stores Pickle them) and 4.25kg to the Towr Green Hamlets scheme (85 bags) with loads to come.  At Bryde’s suggestion we will dry any we can’t sell fresh on strings – beautiful as well as useful.

Veg of the week is Sorrel which is particularly lush and massive at the moment. This is partly due to the drought as we haven’t had enough milder tasting leaves to balance it strong citrus taste in the salad – we haven’t been picking it as much as we normally would.

It does have lots of other uses though and the restaurants do buy it as a single leaf.

It’s traditionally used a lot in French cooking as a soup or as a sauce with fish and one of our allotment plot holders tells me it’s used a lot in Bengali cooking to make fish curry 

Sorrel also makes a delicious pesto


50g sorrel
50g almonds or other nuts or seeds
100ml olive oil
clove of garlic
50g parmesan cheese or strong cheddar (optional)
salt to taste

This pesto can also be made with Nasturtium leaves, which are currently making their annual bid for world domination; just add a sprig of fresh mint and squeeze of lemon.

The salad this week was a overlap of the seasons containing Endives, spinach, nasturtiums, sorrel, mitzuna, salad rocket, and little bits of the first mustard.

Sorrel at Stepney City Farm


nasturtiums at Stepney City Farm


13th September 2018

After the weeks of drought, summer has redeemed itself with all the late summer crops and flowers coming through in glorious abundance: chillies, grapes and now white figs which are unusual (pale green, not purple) and truly delicious if allowed to ripen to really soft. Currently for sale in the shop but we’ll see what the restaurants think of them this week.

The grapes are getting sweeter and more complex in flavour with even the previously mouth puckering green ones starting to sweeten too. Rochelles ordered five kilos this week which, according to their menu, are being served with a raw cows milk cheese from Neal Yard called St Judes.

A Bengali plot holder told me that they eat sour grapes (literal, not metaphorical ones I presume..) raw mixed with chilli, garlic, salt and coriander as chutney. 

Tomatoes are still going strong, as are the courgettes and summer squash – particularly the white patty pan: the one that looks like a cross between a flying saucer and a fluted pastry pie. 

It’s high season for our flowers too with Dahlias, sunflowers, Zinnias, cosmos, rudebekias and others in bloom. 

Farm flowers

Farm flowers

They are great for the bees and bio diversity as well as for us and we’re selling them too, as the more you cut the flowers, the more they grow back (in fact we have to keep picking them or dead heading to keep the flowers coming)

Planting wise we’ve been planting out the winter salad and have already started to crop small amounts off it for the café. The mix currently contains endives, mitzuna, spinach, nasturtiums, sorrel and kale with much more variety to come to boost our salad sales before winter.

In the shop this week will be:

sorrel – use for pesto, soup, sauce 
white figs
courgettes/ flying saucers
Bunches of flowers

Maybe even some salad…

In the week ahead we will continue to plant out, tackle the weeds, save seeds, risk our lives getting the figs down and plant spring bulbs…

Please let me know if you have any observations thoughts or suggestions


Growing space at Stepney City Farm

Growing space at the Farm

September 2018

Check out these juicy grapes! 

Stepney City Farm Grapes 

We’ve also been selling some of our leafy greens and salad to local restaurants (where it has been reviewed as “an exemplary green salad with quite spiky personality”) and veg boxes.

Wholesale to restaurants

August 2018

We are now in high season with the fruiting crops (that have benefitted from the heat) producing in abundance and we’ve been told on good authority that our courgettes are as good as those they normally import from Italy!

Farm grown courgettes from Stepney City Farm

Tomatoes are also doing well

Farm grown tomatoes at stepney city farm

And we have cut flowers to pick to order

Fresh cut flowers available at Stepney City Farm

Anything leafy is coping less well, so our mixed salad has pretty much stopped, because the summer staple, lettuce just bolts in high heat. 

Chard is still going as we are watering it daily, but it is still trying to bolt.

Sowing of overwinter salad, which should be happening now, is having to be delayed as it’s too hot for seeds to germinate. Hey ho… 

In news of who else we have been working with, we have started to take used coffee grounds from Exmouth Coffee in Mile End, which we will compost. And for those of you that use the Tower Green Hamlets box scheme (which has a pick up point here at the Farm), we have started to supply them too!

We are turning all the small beds in the main field into one big growing space, and this has been done with a huge amount of help from the Corporate groups under the guidance of Charlie, and some amazing work by our volunteers. Thank you to everyone for their hard work

The second round of the traineeship is in full swing under the guidance of Elizabeth.

And finally, we are all looking forward to celebrating all the wonderful fruit and veg grown on the farm – as well as all the other things the farm does – at our Harvest Festival on 23rd September!

June 2018

So much growing at the Farm at the moment, salad (fresh to you with zero miles flown – did you know salad often flies around the world to get to the UK? And it has to be refrigerated for the journey, all in all not too brilliant for our planet) and lovely tomatoes.

Inside polytunnel at Stepney City Farm

Growing salad at Stepney City Farm Growing in the poly tunnel at Stepney City Farm

Tomato tomato tomato!

If you haven’t been to the Farm Plant Shop recently you are missing out on these totally terrific tomato plants.

Thought for the day: Knowledge is understanding that a tomato is a fruit, wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

May 2018

May harvests include salad, chard, whole butter head lettuce, herbs (picked to order), spinach and rhubarb.

November 2017

When it’s late autumn in the garden the produce slows right down and we move to clearing, raking, seed saving, planting and planning for spring!  Thanks to our lovely polytunnels we can grow salad leaves through most of the cold season, but we’ll give them (and our cold fingers) a rest in january… We’ve also shared some seasonal treats with the cafe – look out for a medlar concoction coming up in the puddings. Never heard of medlars? They are a fascinating, weird looking and yummy tasting fruit, commonplace in medieval times and out of favour now, but delicious once you put the work in…they need to be picked unripe and ‘bletted’ until they are soft, and once you pick out the stones and skin they taste like gooey toffee apples. Heaven! According to this article they are getting back in fashion…

We have also been planting lovely spring bulbs all over the farm, a bit of bright colourful hope to hold in our minds over the cold winter, and sowing broad beans and garlic, those wonderful plants which unusually you can plant at this time of year.

Another great autumn task is raking and collecting leaves! If you have some room in your garden or shed you can use this fallen gold to make your own Leaf Mulch – just pop a load of leaves in a tied up bin bag with a few holes punched in the sides for airflow – leave for a couple of years and you’ll have a lovely delicate compost to use for seed sowing or to condition your soil.

Remember you can get in touch with us if you have any questions or queries about growing in your garden or ours!

September 2017 

Lovely leaves available at the Stepney City Farm Plant Shop

In the garden we are preparing the beds (and ourselves!) for the changing season. You can still grow loads of delicious food into the winter and beyond, so we are planting out the beds with delicious winter salads plants which you can buy in the plant shop for your own patch.

Kale is a winter staple – we have different varieties such as Cavolo Nero and Red Russian, and you can pick the leaves small for a salad mix or grow them big for cooking. Same applies to Chard – that year round favourite. These, along with all leafy greens are super good for you, full of iron and calcium to power you up.

And now a word from the lettuce family…winter sees the amazing sharp and sophisticated flavours of Chicory and Endive – slightly bitter leaves (great for the digestion, and also great to grow as the slugs don’t seem to like them!).  Most varieties are Italian, so we have wonderful names like Pancallieri, Palla Rossa, Grumolo Verde, Catalogna Frastagliata.

To learn more about these wonderful leaves check out this article and some recipe ideas

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