In his recipe book Jamie at Home, the chef says that he has "fallen in love" with his veggie patch, admitting that he has even "kissed a few of [his] more beautiful, prized vegetables"! Here are his top food garden tips:
• Jamie says "patience" is compulsory when growing asparagus, adding: "It won’t produce properly for the first three years, as the plants have to build their network of roots and store huge quantities of nutrients and energy in order to produce their lovely spears."
• Do you often get woody, stringy asparagus? The star chef suggests: "Simply click them off at the base." You’ll feel where they’ll naturally want to snap.
• His recipe in Jamie at Home suggests that you could serve your asparagus with smashed mint and butter, grill them with olive oil, lemon and parmesan or steam and drizzle with French vinaigrette.
• "Rhubarb can last for 20 years," Jamie reveals. "As it’s a permanent plant, you want to give it a good start in life. Choose [a] partially shaded areas of the garden and [add] organic compost and organic fertilizer."
• Although most people think of rhubarb as a dessert fruit, he says that it is "actually part of the sorrel family, so it’s really more of a herb". He likes to stir it through gravy or stir fry to make the dish sticky and sweet.
• One warning: rhubarb leaves are mildly poisonous! Jamie cheekily quips: "Don’t cook, eat or smoke them!"
• The cabbage family features roots (like swede and turnip), stems (such as kohlrabi), flowers (eg. Broccoli) and leaves (think kale and Brussels sprouts).
• Jamie sows his cabbage family seeds into module trays filled with organic compost and keeps them indoors, then plants them outside when they’re 6 to 9cm tall.
• Brassicas can grow well in most soil types, but they don’t really like acidic ground. They need a bright spot in the garden.
• Jamie describes beetroot as the "underdog" of the vegetable world, but insists that you should treat them just like a carrot.
• The celeb chef says that when you pull your beets out of the ground, twist the green stalks off, dust off soil and place on sand in a box. You can then cover with sand and layer up with other root veg to keep in a cold shed for up to four months!
• He says: "Just imagine putting a damn good roast on the table or a fantastic steak with crispy potatoes and then bringing out something unexpected like roast beetroot – that’s how you get your friends talking!"
• Jamie suggests: "Have a go at planting some lovely little strawberry varieties in your hanging baskets this year, instead of flowers."
• If you think that big is better, apparently size does not count when it comes to strawberries. The smaller ones can have three times as much as flavour!
• Jamie suggests throwing freshly picked strawberries into a salad with speck and haloumi, fresh basil, lemon juice and balsamic. Alternatively, you can grill them with a bit of booze and serve with vanilla ice cream.
• Want to grow courgettes? Jamie warns: "Keep an eye on them after it rains as they’ll have a growing spurt. Leave [them] on the vine for too long, [they’ll ripen too much and] will be fibrous and lacking in flavour."
• Jamie says: "I would definitely encourage you to grow your own courgettes because you get the flowers [too]. They have a sweet, pollen-like taste and are a fantastic receptacle for filling with meats or cheeses."
• The perfect "flavor partners" for zucchini (according to Jamie) are thyme and mint. They don’t always have to be cooked – he peels them into ribbons, tosses with lemon juice and chilli and serves with grilled fish.
• Jamie has long been enjoying a foodie love affair with tomatoes! He says: "There are a few ingredients for me that if they didn’t exist I’d give up cooking tomorrow and become a carpenter. Tomatoes are one of these."
• Jamie’s famous 'Mothership tomato salad' involves throwing a variety of your tomatoes from the garden onto a plate with olive oil, balsamic, oregano, chilli, garlic and big balls of mozzarella and ciabatta bread.
• He says: "Tomatoes have to be one of the most exciting things to grow. When you have a go yourself, the varieties, shapes, colours, tastes and smells are so completely different from what you can buy in the shops."