On Friday, I visited The Edible Garden Show for the first time. Previously it's clashed with family celebrations and I'd also wondered whether such an early season gardening show would work. Well, it does work - very well indeed. Here's a taster of what I saw...
I spotted this intriguing basket on the way in. Taking edibles to the show? There must be a story regarding those leeks...
One of the show's strengths is the extremely full programme of talks. Here James Wong is in full flow in the Experts Theatre, which itself was full to overflowing whenever James appeared (apologies for the quality of the photos, the lighting was awful for taking pics!). I could have just sat down all day listening to talks here... and in the Cookery Theatre... and in The Potting Shed... AND in the smallholders area.
The concept of edible was present at the show in its widest sense. As you can see even the snails are moving too quickly for my camera's shutter speed! I had a long chat with the stallholder of Slow Summer Snail Farm - her snails get fattened up on things like cherries from Brogdale, much to the delight of local chefs. Oh, and these are the same species as our garden snail, but in a larger form.
There were lots of stands to peruse and many an idea to ponder. This show is very much about down to earth practicalities with loads of expert advice on offer. There aren't any show gardens, but that's what made it work so well for me and also marks it as a very different show. Garden Organic had a strong presence (and I loved hearing about their Sowing New Seeds project), as did the BBKA, the RSPB and the local Wildlife Trust.
There were loads of innovative ideas with specific expertise on hand too. Aquaponics is on my list of techniques to tackle for The 52 Week Salad Challenge. This system was on the expensive side of things, but Daniel from Aqua Allotments was a complete enthusiast and very informative. Schools and care homes are proving to be a good fit for this idea. Elsewhere it was interesting to see lots of renewable energy ideas e.g. solar powered watering systems and small-scale wind turbines.
My favourite area was the Smallholder Marquee - full of puffed-out chest chickens, curious goats, calm sheep and some very contented grunting pigs. These were having a lie down after bumping into me earlier. If you're thinking about keeping animals, this was the must-see spot: not only for the expertise so easily at hand, but also for a visual guide to lots of different breeds.
I also believe a star was born on Friday. Here's Naomi after giving her very well received debut talk - she's a natural! You can read her view of the show - with chickens - here (and my review of her book). I also met Greg Becker of Plot52 - his illustrations of allotment life are charming and deserve a much wider audience :)
And of course I came home laden with lots of seeds, products and plants. Here's a threesome in my bag from the James Wong Homegrown Revolution plant range launched at the show. From left to right we have wasabi, kaffir lime and cardomom. The latter two mean I will be exploring keeping edibles as houseplants :)
Next year this popular show moves to the Alexandra Palace on 28-30 March. I'm sure this will take it to a much wider audience, though I'll miss my scenic drive up the Fosse Way to get there.
Disclosure: I received a Press Pass to the event, but those plants were bought with my hard-earned cash! Any monetary benefit I gained on entrance fees was wiped out 10-fold by my car breaking down in Moreton-in-Marsh on the way home :(