This weekend my youngest daughter and I spent Sunday morning sowing seeds into pots in the polytunnel for this years plantings of edible plants at our campsite near Lewes. I really enjoy this time of year as my imagination transports me to the spring and summer when we will be able to start picking and eating plants that we have sown at the end of the winter, and this year we have got a huge number of edible plants that we are looking forward to planting around the Secret Campsite which is in sunny Sussex. The Secret Campsite is based at Brickyard Farm, and as you might imagine we have heavy clay soil which is not every plants cup of tea. So selecting plants for the campsite requires a little research in advance.
I have selected seeds that will do better in our local conditions. Our clay soil is in stark contrast to the nearby South Downs National Parks thin and free draining chalk grassland, but it does provide good growing conditions for a wide variety of plants. The aim with our plantings around the campsite are to eventually have a wide range of edible plants that will be productive over a long season of camping and provide brilliant tastes and flavours to add to a wide variety of dishes from salads and soups to flavourings for drinks and teas, or just as an exciting plant to nibble on as you explore the campsite.
So far our plant list, to go with the sweet cicely, wild garlic and agrimony that I sowed last autumn is a s follows: Chives, Catnep, Marshmallow, Angelica, French Sorrel, Wild Chamomile, Greek Oregano, Wild strawberry, Stevia, and Globe Artichokes. I have further sowings to make in April and May as well as the garden area near to our new campsite shower block which will be sown with big splashes of colourful edible annuals and a surprise tea plant for campers to enjoy in the afternoon.
Most of these plants are probably familiar to the average camper, but the exciting ones are the marshmallow, commonly associated when camping at a campfire friendly campsite with children and a long twig, and Stevia which is a plant that tastes up to 300 times sweeter than sugar and is very low in carbohydrates, although it has only recently been approved in the EU. Of the two plants the Marsh Mallow, Althea officinalis also has a fantastic medicinal rating, and herbalist friends swear by its hidden qualities. You can even use the water left after cooking the leaves as an egg white substitute for making meringues, how about that.
Having finished sowing the seeds of these plants we then potted up our 28 Asparagus roots which we will be able to plant later in the summer once there roots have established in the new pots. Picking a stalk of fresh asparagus to garnish a salad or to just morishly crunch fresh is a brilliant way to enjoy eating and camping in the countryside, and it always tastes so much better when the plants have been picked seconds before, as you casually stroll around the campsite only to happen upon another delicious little treat. We can’t start eating our asparagus this summer, but I will enjoy some of them with our campers in 2014.