Category Archives: Free Food

Vegan Wild Garlic Pesto!

It’s the time of year when things once again start to spring from the ground all around us with abundance. Have you ever been down in the woods somewhere and could have sworn you’ve smelt garlic?

Chances are you have, and the culprit is the wide, flat green leaves sprouting out of the floor around you. Wild Garlic is just one of the many things the forest provides for us and here is a simple and great tasting recipe to make the most of it.

You will need:

  • A good fistful or two of Wild Garlic leaves
    (pick the lighter green shoots from the top of the plant)
  • Enough olive oil to make it all nice and moist, maybe 4 tablespoons
  • A small shallot, finely chopped
  • A tablespoon full of your favourite nuts
    My choice would be ground almonds (organic of course!)
  • A good pinch of salt & pepper
  • Chilli powder if you’re brave enough!

If you have a Nutribullet or other fast blender, combine the ingredients and give it a short blast, but I mean short as we don’t want it to turn to puree. Otherwise, chop the garlic leaves finely with a pair of scissors, and mix everything together in a bowl with your hands.

Et voila, the perfect strong, vibrant flavour to go with bread and hummus or whatever else you fancy.


– Thommy (Food Hub Volunteer)

Mycogeneration – Grow your own Mushrooms at home

mushroomIt has been said that we are a country of mycophobes. I’m not sure this is true of the forest. There are many mycophiles in these woods. How about you? Do you know the difference between a chicken and a hen of the woods and a turkey tail? Do you know where will you find judus’ ear? Could you spot a penny bun and horse cap?

Well whether you’re keen to forage for fungi or not if you still want to enjoy fresh mushrooms there are quite a number of mushroom species that lend themselves well to home cultivation. One species in particular, a true wonder of the fungi world is the Pleurotus Ostreatus or Oyster mushroom. It is one of the most ubiquitous and vivacious species of fungi on the planet. Not only is it a delicious gourmet mushroom with many health benefits but it also offers huge potential in the remediation of damaged and polluted environments.

It is the third most commercially grown mushroom in the world not that you’d be able to tell from our supermarket shelves. Many people seem to be under the impression that mushrooms have little nutritional value. Well this is not true of the oyster mushroom. It contains up to 30% protein and it is high in vitamin C and potassium. It also produces Lovastatin a drug approved for treating excessive blood cholesterol and studies have shown it can inhibit the growth of tumours.

Pleruotus ostreatus is among the pioneers in the field of mycoremediation. It is a saprophytic mushroom meaning that it feeds on ligneous, woody material. However, the oyster mushroom is especially adaptable to different types of cellulose rich substrate. So much so that it is being used to denature oil contaminated organic matter reducing petrol-chemical soaked material to organic compost in a matter of months far out performing conventional chemical treatments for oil spills and related pollutants. It does this by producing various enzymes that breakdown a wide assortment of hydrocarbon-based toxic substances. This means it also has the potential to filter such pollutants from water using a fully inoculated substrate as a “mycofilter”.

This virulent versatility means that the you can easily grow this yourself at home on a variety of substrates such as cardboard, straw, paper, to name just a few and here’s how.

You will need:

  • cardboard
  • plastic container
  • straw
  • plastic bag (freezer bag)
  • gypsum(optional)
  • used coffee granules (optional)
  • scissors

First, soak some cardboard (preferably without print) in boiling water leave to cool, and then drain off the excess water.

Take a healthy fresh specimen preferable with the root or stem butt and slice thinly.

Once the cardboard has cooled and drained (the cardboard should be wet but not dripping) peel the layer and using the corrugated sections lay them in strips in the plastic container. You are trying to create an undulating terrain for the mycellium to grow/run through. Sandwich pieces of the sliced mushroom between layers of the cardboard until the container is full.

Now put the lid on the container but leave it very slightly open, place the container in a dark warm place for one to two weeks until the the mycellium has fully colonised the container.

Once you have a container thick with white mycellium with a sweet nutty aroma you are ready to use it to inoculate your chosen substrate for the mushroom to grow on.


Cut the straw into 1 to 2 inch pieces put into a large saucepan, cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for 30 mins. This process of pasteurization should remove most bacteria and fungi that would otherwise compete with the oyster mushroom. Now leave to cool and drain. The moisture content should be 80% basically not dripping wet. Take a clear plastic bag and layer the straw and the cardboard mycellium until full. Tie the bag tight. It’s good to have some air exchange. Ideally at microporus filter would be used to prevent contamination but with oyster mushroom this isn’t so much of a concern. Now leave the bag in a dark warm place for three weeks until it is a firm whitish block of mycellium. Now it’s ready to fruit!

For instructions on fruiting techniques and other mushrooms suitable for indoor and outdoor home cultivation visit our website:

A range of prepared Osyter mushroom grow bags are available here at
Dean Forest Food Hub

For more information on mycoremediation visit:

Stella’s Winter Garden: December

janbeansThis month has been surprisingly warm and sunny and my little indoor garden is showing the effects: all the plants from large seeds – the garlic, peas and beans – are bucketing away with masses of growth, especially the broad beans which are shouting that they’d like to be planted out soon!

And the peas, a little behind. They’re just fine whether in or out, so a few will be planted out out but most will stay indoors until March.

janraddishRadishes are now tall and strong, and if they are to grow nice fat bulbs I’ll try putting them close to a radiator during the evenings and see if a bit if heat will make a difference

All the plants go out on sunny days when I have time, so they can get the maximum light, and now I’VE STOPPED WATERING THEM ALL. Some of the smaller lettuces died because too much water just means the plants all have their toes in freezing cold water: they don’t need watering more than once, meanly, every few weeks, and the soil will become dryish but that’s fine. Growth will now slow almost to a halt because of the lack of light and warmth, so thetask is just to keep them happy until they are ready to start growing again somewhen in March.

Meanwhile a few lettuce and mizuna leaves have got big enough to pick and have made three or four good salads, which pleases me enormously.

Spinach is quite big, and those will be repotted into big pots to give them room to grow. So far, although I haven’t had a whole lot of food, it’s been really instructive to see how plants will go on producing a little bit of food even though its deep into winter now.

janboxWith the cardboard box garden, it’s gone rather quiet except for the garlic which is ramping away, and the others have hardly changed since they were planted in November so some patience will be needed while waiting for them to start catching up again. Now we’re in January and the days are getting longer all the plants will spend some time near the radiators and that, with a bit more daylight, should have all the plants ready to take off growing in late February or early March.

Progress report in due course…..

Stella’s Winter garden: November

stella1This is my project for saving money this winter by growing some hardy crops on my windowsill. I’m not a very skilful gardener so if I can do it, you probably can as well.As you can see from the pictures, I started with two old washing up bowls and some little plastic food boxes. I put in some compost and garden soil and off I went. So far, I have lettuces, spinach, broccoli, mizuna, rocket, and two weeks ago I added peas, broad beans and radishes.


The first lettuce and mizuna are nearly ready to take a few leaves from. When it gets very cold I’ll be putting clear plastic or bubble wrap over and under them to keep them warmer, and without reducing the light they get. Today is really sunny, so they’ll all go out for a few hours.


The peas and beans are doing well, and when they have 3 or 4 real leaves I am planning to plant some in an old bucket supported with sticks, so that they will have a head start for next year.
and the spinach is almost ready to go into some deeper containers. They won’t grow fast at this season, but they are growing, slowly, and I’m very pleased with the radishes, which are looking really promising after only two weeks. Those are going to come in to sit on the warmer, kitchen windowsill this week.

Don’t think I spend many hours on this though! A few minutes twice a week, to plant or water or cover things is all it takes. 

Total cost so far – with seeds kindly given by a local seed savers group – FREE.


 stellavegboxTake one cardboard box, line in with newspaper (for warmth) then a dustbin liner (waterproof). Fill with good soil/compost and water well, add densely planted seeds or seedlings. Because it’s quite deep – 6” is ideal – carrots can be planted 1” apart because they aren’t competing for food or water so they can sit very close together. Alternate tops with roots, so that radishes sit next to lettuce, for example, and make sure they get as much light as possible as the next two months have the least light in the year. On sunny days I generally put my box outside for a few hours.

In my box I’ve transplanted seedlings from my garden, but you can put seeds in and they’ll sprout quite quickly. Here I’ve got radishes, carrots, garlic (keep in one corner away from everything except carrots), mizuna, mispoona, spinach and chard. As they grow I can thin them, eat them or transplant somewhere else but meanwhile they have the best possible growing conditions, and on very cold days I’ll be covering them with bubble wrap at night when there’s no light anyway. There shouldn’t be any pests to munch on them, and although they will grow slowly because of the low light of winter, they still grow. Progress report next month!