Spotlight on Tomatoes and Basil

What’s so good about Tomatoes?

From Tumbling Toms and Ailsa Craigs, to Marmande and Heirlooms, tomatoes are a firm British favourite thanks to their versatility and full flavour. Whether you like them sliced in a crunchy salad or prefer to whiz them up into a tasty pasta sauce, eating tomatoes regularly is good for your health.

Here are some juicy facts about tomatoes:

  • Tomatoes can come in different colours – from dark red, to orange to green! Contrary to what people might think, the colour doesn’t have much affect on the taste but they all include lots of essential nutrients.
  • Tomatoes are high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Calcium and Potassium
  • They’re low in fat, high in fibre and a low-calorie source of many vitamins and minerals.
  • Research suggests tomatoes have another important nutritional benefit – they’re packed with lycopene, an antioxidant that gives them their bright red colour and may also have a role to play in lowering the risk of cancer and heart disease.
  • Just one tomato or seven cherry tomatoes counts as one of the 5-a-day and contains just 15 calories and 0.3g fat. Try snacking on cherry tomatoes instead of crisps when hunger hits or make up a batch of homemade tomato soup to help fill you up.

Did you know there is a British Tomato Week? It runs from 19th – 25th May this year and it the tenth anniversary of the event so look out for tomato themed activities taking place around the country.

Brilliant Basil!

Basil and tomatoes are a wonderful cookery combination, especially within Mediterranean cuisine. Basil, an aromatic herb belonging to the mint family, is perhaps best known as the key ingredient in pesto, but here you can find out some fun facts about this aromatic plant.

  • Basil now grows in many regions throughout the world, but it was first native to India, Asia and Africa. It is prominently featured in cuisines throughout the world including Italian, Thai, Vietnamese and Laotian.
  • The name “basil” is derived from the ancient Greek wordbasilikohn, which means “royal,” reflecting the culture’s attitudes towards a herb that they held to be very noble and sacred. Basil is also revered in other cultures, for example in India, basil was cherished as an icon of hospitality, while in Italy, it was a symbol of love.
  • Basil is an excellent source of vitamin K and manganese; a very good source of copper, vitamin A (in the form of carotenoids such as beta-carotene), and vitamin C.

Feeling stressed out? Basil can help to relax you. It contains phytochemicals that studies suggest may lower cortisol, a hormone secreted when you’re tense. 
Add a few leaves to  your salad or pop a few in a glass of chilled ice tea for a relaxing drink.

 

Organic food growing 2 – companion planting good and bad plants

In the second of our mini series on organic food growing at home we have provided a table of favourite varieties and their good and bad companion plants!

It is generally thought that all plants will grow happily alongside each other, but this is not the case. There is a lot of competition between individual plants for light, space, water and nutrients.

Some plants will excrete toxins via their roots into the soil to act as a growth inhibitor. These we think of as bad companions and in food plant gardens we make sure to keep them apart.

Others plants such as legumes (peas and beans) will release nitrogen via their roots to encourage plant growth – good companions. It is this ‘plant science’ that we turn to our advantage to make the maximum use of space available in containers and veg patches.

Marigold plants will excrete a substance through their roots that kills harmful soil nematodes and there are plants that contain strong smelling volatile oils that deter or confuse harmful pests.

Good and bad companion plants

The table below highlights the principals above for a select group of edible plants:

This mini series is brought to you from the Seed Pantry team members Mike and Neil.

Mike says: ‘Good and bad companion planting can really help you make the best of growing your own food, it’s always good to use nature in your favour rather than pesticides’

Neil says: ‘I am sowing seeds right now ready to go in next month, so I will be carefully considering what to plant where, to make the most of my crops, I have beans and peas shooting up and beetroot so I’ll be careful not to plant them next to each other!’

Look out for the next post in the mini series, we’ll put a table of companion plants to attract beneficial insects…

 

We’re keen to Go Green!

This week is Go Green Week (10th – 16th February), People and Planet’s annual national week of action on climate change and encouraging the use of greener alternatives.

Students around the UK in schools, colleges and universities will be running activities to raise awareness of climate issues and to demand stronger action to tackle the climate crisis.

The organisers of the campaign have suggested a whole host of activities to get involved in during the week. This year, Go Green Week coincides with Valentine’s Day so there will be Carbon Speed Dating events (like normal speed dating except couples are matched according to their carbon footprint).

Other events include holding Green Curry Night Fundraisers, where students will be cooking up spicy delights in return for donations to People and Planet.

Universities, schools and colleges from all around the country will be putting on events.  Check out the Go Green Week website for all the latest information about the events taking place during the week – http://peopleandplanet.org/gogreenweek

Growing your own vegetables, herbs and salads is a great step towards greener living. It helps to reduce waste and allows you to eat wholesome, fresh, organic foods. As Spring is just around the corner, now is a great time to start thinking about setting up a vegetable patch in the garden, or if you don’t have the space, our popular kits let you grow your own in even the smallest of outdoor spaces – from balconies and patios, to window sills and yards.

So during Go Green Week, take time to think about how you can make your lifestyle greener – growing your own is a great place to start!

Follow People and Planet on Twitter @peopleandplanet or visit the website for more information on Go green Week or to make a donation – http://peopleandplanet.org/aboutus/