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Olia’s allotment tales

It took a decade to get her green fingers on a London allotment, but it was worth the wait for an (overgrown) patch of green space and the chance to grow her own vegetables, herbs and fruit. Now, after a year of toil and learning, failures and successes, Olia Hercules is using her plot to nourish and sustain, and to grow family memories as well as food

the residency.

OLIA HERCULES

Food writer in residence No 3

“I grew up with things growing around me. Our house had a garden and there were two cherry trees, a walnut tree and a row of mulberry trees in the street outside. We also had a dacha (second home in the country) with a bigger plot, and an even bigger garden at my grandmother’s. I remember gooseberry, blackcurrant and raspberry bushes taller than me (I was only little, mind). So when I found out it was possible to have an allotment, a plot of your own in London, and that it was cheap to rent, I felt elated. “I can grow tiny prickly cucumbers,” I thought. I immediately applied and got a letter saying I should think again as the waiting list is up to 10 years. My heart sank, but I didn’t withdraw my application. Almost exactly 10 years later, I got my plot. It was abandoned and needed love and time. I had plenty of the former but not enough of the latter. Or so I thought.

It’s not one of those manicured allotments, but it is thriving; my patty pan squashes and lovage are like trees, and the branches of the apple and pear trees that were already there are laden with ripe fruit. I’ve taken to growing things I can’t easily find – sweet cicely, sorrel and lemon verbena.

Next year it will be better, and I can’t wait to plant some salsify. I’m already drawing inspiration from my little plot, and seeing my son getting involved gives me hope he will have warm childhood memories, not so dissimilar to mine.”

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About delicious. Magazine

Autumn is upon us, the nights are drawing in – all the better to cosy up with Nigella’s simple chicken supper, Olia Hercules’ allotment recipes and Hugh F-W veggie treats with Ottolenghi and GBBO’s Prue Leith bringing the puddings. As if all that wasn’t enough there’s Richard Bertinet’s harvest fougasse and 16 pages all about lovely melty cheese, plus pumpkin recipes, cheese scones and, cue fanfare, the winners of the delicious. Produce Awards 2017.