About James Martin Digs Deep
Good Food Channel's Amanda Smith met UKTV chef James Martin, to find out why he's spent the last year in the garden instead of the kitchen.
Growing up in a farming community, James remembers always wanting to own a fruit and vegetable garden. After buying a house with three acres of land, he finally saw a way to get back to his roots: "I remember when my grandfather grew carrots on his allotment, he used to literally pull them out of the ground, spit on one, give it a rub, and then give it to me to eat."
Unfortunately James was too busy munching on carrots to pick up any tips from his grandfather and began his recent project knowing absolutely nothing about gardening. So why didn't he leave it to the experts? "Of course I could've given a gardening company £20,000 and got them to build it, but where's the fun in that?" says James. And so it was, determined to have a go, he concentrated on three main ideas: "what to grow, what to grow it in, and what to cook with the results."
Trial and error
James starts out with just a plot of land, but by the end of the series he's able to use his kitchen garden to cook dinner for close to 100 celebrity guests. So do we get to see this impressive learning curve? "I started off with literally a field, so I had to do everything: planting 80 trees, moving around 800 tonnes of top soil - if you don't believe me, watch the series!" Far from a walk in the park, this called for muddy boots and muscle: "It was loads of hard work and you'll see a fair few disasters. Like the time I swung round the digger and took out half a wall. I also had pigeons eating my cabbages, so I shot them," laughs James, and we wonder if he was joking...
Dramas aside, James hopes most of all that the series will inspire others to get growing, especially those with children: "I think it's great for kids to learn where their food comes from, and also how it grows. Kids should know that if you put one potato in the ground, three months later there will be 20."
James' growing tips
But for those of us who aren't green fingered, where should we start? "The easiest vegetables to start growing are potatoes, carrots, beetroots and chillies. Buy a chilli plant from the garden centre, stick it in the ground and it grows!" says James. Don't be put off by the start of winter - November is all about planting your root vegetables, so think parsnips and onions. Even if you don't have a garden James suggests growing carrots and lettuces in a window box: "For about £1.50 you'll get about 100 lettuces," of course he doesn't advise you plant them all at once!