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Gardening writer Wendy Pillar violated the rule ‘never meet your heroes’ when she visited veg growing legend Joy Larkcom at her home in Ireland. She was very glad that she did

I discovered Joy Larkcom’s work a few years ago, and realised that my favourite TV gardeners had been inspired by her. The more of her books that I read, the more I am in awe of what she has achieved. Joy is like the great Victorian plant hunters who combed the planet for exotics, but with vegetables instead of rhododendrons! She has spent her life pushing the boundaries of vegetable growing and, despite her unassuming manner, has had a huge impact on the way we grow and eat vegetables and salads.


A trained horticulturist, Joy is scientific in her approach. In 1976 she went on a year-long European veg tour. Her husband Don gave up his job and spent the year doing the domestic duties and home-schooling their two children. The family toured Europe in a caravan while Joy scouted for endangered varieties of vegetables and methods of growing them, collecting seed as she went.

It was a fortuitous moment for the tour. Big agriculture had not yet extinguished peasant growing methods in much of Europe, and the multinational seed companies had not yet taken over. The lettuce ‘Lollo Rosso’ was one of Joy’s introductions from the veg tour. Before that all lettuce was of the round, green variety. The art of the mixed salad full of different flavours and textures had once been strong in England but had been lost, but fortunately not in Europe. There Joy discovered red chicories from Italy, and rocket, among others. It took a while to filter through, but the new salad leaves, coupled with the cut-and-come-again technique that Joy also popularised, revolutionised our salads

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About Kitchen Garden Magazine

Welcome to Kitchen Garden Magazine In this issue: ON THE VEG PATCH This month Joyce Russell takes over our jobs on the plot feature. Joyce is busy tending to leeks, preparing bean trenches, sorting seeds and lifting celeriac IN THE GREENHOUSE KG regular Martin Fish moves into the greenhouse and polytunnel from this issue and is having a winter clean up, preparing the soil for spring crops and pruning grapes THE CULTIVATED PLOT In the first part of his new series, Graham Strong gets his new plot into shape for spring sowings MEET THE BLOGGERS This month we meet Hayley Moisley, a young blogger with a bright future in the world of allotment gardening