Veg Talk: Tips and Tales from Gluts & Gluttony’s Kathy Slack
When it comes to making the most of homegrown produce, Kathy Slack knows her onions – and her courgettes, beans and tomatoes too! There is nowhere the self-proclaimed “veg-evangelist” would rather be than her Cotswold patch among her vegetables – except, of course, the kitchen cooking and eating them. This passion shines through in Kathy’s blog, Gluts & Gluttony, which won the Soil Association’s Best Blog Award in 2019 and the Guild of Food Writers Online Food Writing Award in 2021. And now there are even more tales, tips and recipes to feast on thanks to Kathy’s new book, From The Veg Patch, which focuses on 10 of her favourite fruits and vegetables. We caught up with the Kathy to find out more.
How did your love affair with vegetable growing begin?
I'd been working in advertising for over a decade when, oh so predictably, burnout and depression took hold and I quit. Unemployed and dysfunctional, I found solace in the weedy, untamed veg patch in our garden and, over the course of several months, I started growing veg and it really helped to heal me. I caught the bug then.
Do you think there’s a home grower in all of us?
Sure. Even if it's just a pot of basil on the windowsill, I defy anyone to see a seed turn into a plant and not be amazed by it.
What are your top tips for home-growing newbies?
Grow stuff you actually eat. Sounds obvious, but I grew potatoes for years because they seemed like a staple crop that every allotment should have. But I hardly eat many potatoes so it wasn't very satisfying.
How important is growing and eating organically to you?
It's vital. There's no better way to understand the implications of non-organic growing than to stand over your tomato harvest with a bottle of spray that's covered in warnings and 'poisonous' signs and prepare to spray it all over the tomatoes you plan to eat one day. Aside from the ecological issues, it just seemed bonkers to do that to something I was going to put in my own body.
Which vinegars and other store cupboard essentials do you rely on to make the most of your produce?
My go-to is a splash of cider vinegar that's already mixed with honey. It's the fastest salad dressing you'll ever make. Great mixed in a glass of fizzy water too. And a good selection of what I call 'flavour bombs': harissa, good mayo, pesto, garlic paste - a spoonful of any one of those stirred into grated veg or over roasted veg makes a very satisfying meal.
Which of your recipes do you cook the most?
I have a very sweet tooth and I'm addicted to beetroot so I'm always drawn to the beetroot, almond and tahini brownies.
Have this year’s gluts inspired any new recipe experiments?
I'd never grown kohlrabi before, but that turns out to be delicious! Great sliced very finely, mixed with sliced apple, then tossed in a thick dressing of Dijon mustard, cider vinegar and olive oil.
Are you a passionate pickler and preserver?
I am, but I'm impatient. When there's a properly huge glut, especially of fruit, it takes ages to pick the crop and I run out of time for the preserving part. So now I pick, wash, trim and sort the harvests one day, then boil everything up in the kitchen the next. Much more manageable.
Do you have any other tips for ensuring nothing you grow goes to waste?
Set up a compost bin. That way, even if you don't manage to eat everything, at least you can put it on the compost heap and turn it into wonderful fuel for next year's crops so it isn't really wasted.
What are you looking forward to cooking and eating this autumn?
I love nothing more than a rich, savoury dish with a tart sauce to wake you up on top. So the charred beetroot with butterbean mash and salsa verde is a favourite of mine – warm and comforting with a sour, zingy green sauce.
From the Veg Patch: 10 favourite vegetables, 100 simple recipes everyone will love (Ebury Press) is out now. You can follow Kathy on Instagram @gluts_gluttony.