Gardener’s Marvellous Medicine

The dreaded black bean aphids. The busy ants that ‘farm’ the aphids for their sweet, sugary secretions by ‘tickling their tummies’; according to Zofia! This week it was time for them to go. We made a homemade ‘pesticide’ to ward these creatures off our bean arch.

The recipe included a few drops of orange oil, a handful of garlic cloves, some hot chilli powder and a squirt of washing up liquid mixed in with a jug of water. “It’s not George’s Marvellous Medicine, this is Gardener’s Marvellous Medicine!” Tancredi joked as we set about spraying the plants with our concoction. We were very careful not to spray onto any flowering plants as we didn’t want to discourage any pollinators such as bees!

We also had some recycled newspaper to use in the garden. Any suggestions as to what for? “For the plants to read the news!” … an imaginative offer but sadly no, it was in fact to be shredded and added to the compost bin! The microbes, which break down the material in our compost bin into rich organic matter, need a balanced diet just like us humans. They need nitrogen found in ‘green’ materials such as food waste from the kitchen and weeds from the beds and carbon found in ‘brown’ materials such as dead leaves and woodchips. Since we’ve been adding a lot more of the ‘green’ materials into the bin recently, we decided to use shredded newspaper to add more carbon.

Lastly in the garden but certainly not least, we had some lovely broad beans ready to harvest. Washed and peeled, the fresh beans were sweet and juicy. What a treat!



In the kitchen we got to work on preparing a very green looking crostini. We didn’t have any asparagus in the garden as it takes a couple of years before harvesting but they had appeared in the supermarket recently. As it has a short window for picking we need to make the most of it.  Only eating green spears grown in the UK means that they are cherished and appreciated much more then eating the much sadder variety flown all the way from Peru during the rest of the year.

Asparagus is one of the best natural sources of folate. Adequate folate intake is extremely important during periods of rapid growth such as pregnancy, infancy and adolescence. However the strong taste is not something that children are going to immediately be drawn to. So we will need to box clever with this recipe. Last time I made this was the morning of our wedding this time last year and it worked on our guests so I was excited to try it on these guys.


Good bread (we used ciabatta)

Asparagus spears

Frozen peas (we also used a few broad beans from the garden)

A lemon

Olive oil

Sea salt


Abergavenny Goats Cheese (Many children don’t like stronger goats cheese but this one is very mild, soft and creamy)



So we prepared the bread for the kids as that can be tricky. The children used peelers to grate the asparagus tips. We made sure they didn’t get confused and throw those away! Then having boiled some peas beforehand we smashed the peas with the back of a fork. Next to the cheese we added some lemon, a squeeze of honey, lemon thyme from the garden and mixed it all together. Now time to build the crostini. Spread the cheese mixture over the bread or toast if you prefer, a spoonful of crushed peas in the middle and the shaved asparagus on top.  On top add a drizzle of oil, a pinch of salt, mint (we have an abundance in the garden and its great to see the kids recognize it and really get a taste for using it) and a final squeeze of lemon.

The children love the artistry involved in crostini making and these guys put so much passion into their creations. We all ate our concoctions greedily outside as is our tradition now surrounded by the washes of green of their rooftop garden. One crostini wasn’t enough and for many they had made a new friend. Until next year asparagus. Make the most out of the asparagus at home and let us know how it goes.


For more information on Folate, visit Health Ambition’s site here