With the start of Mental Health Awareness Week I thought it would be an appropriate time to start a regular blog about behind the scenes at The Greenhouse Horsforth. To start, today's post will focus on promoting the role gardening can play on a person’s mental wellbeing.
It is true that access to a patch of green space can help people struggling with mental health and it’s great to hear more and more doctors are ‘social prescribing’ (non-clinical activities) in a bid to improve patients physical or mental health. I’m sure everyone reading this has in some way been exposed to mental health issues either directly or indirectly and find it as encouraging as me to learn that the answer isn’t always to treat with medication and alternative methods are available.
Being in a garden, small or large, can help us to connect with nature and learning to grow plants, either flowers or vegetables makes you aware of the seasons and the elements thrown at us by the UK’s infamous climate! Watching a plant grow helps us to understand that its success is as a result of many different components and not all are a direct result of what we do, that external factors contribute and these are not always within our control, such as in life.
In life I have always been drawn to the great outdoors to help me relax, whether it’s walking the dog, going for a run or cycling, I love being outside and connecting with my surroundings. Sometimes though, time doesn’t allow for heading out the doors for a few hours so to get some fresh air and recuperation I’ll head straight for our back garden.
Recently we turned part of our garden over to an allotment and have been busy these last months or so getting seedlings growing and our actual greenhouse fully stocked with a host of favourite greenhouse regulars, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, chillies and aubergines to name a few. 3 of the 4 raised beds are now stocked with just the remaining bed waiting to receive the courgettes, butternut squashes and climbing beans.
This year I’m growing 2 varieties of bean, the traditional runner bean and also the ever popular dwarf French bean. Beans are packed full of protein and potassium, as well as magnesium, folates, iron, zinc and iron. They are so so so good for you and if that isn’t enough they are also good for the environment providing the soil with lots of nitrogen from their roots. They make the perfect vegetable to grow for anyone struggling with outdoor space as varieties such as the dwarf French bean can be grown in a pot as they only grow to approximately 18 inches tall. They are delicious and easy to grow. They make great finger food for children, and are ideal for anyone who doesn’t like the ‘stringy’ bits in runner beans! They come in a variety of colours – as well as the usual green beans, there are cream, yellow, and purple French beans.
What is your favourite ways to eat your beans? I enjoy mine simply steamed, then drizzled with a lovely zingy vinaigrette and eaten as part of a salad. I make this dressing very quickly and it stores well in a jam jar in the fridge. I mix together:
- 2-3 heaped teaspoons French mustard , to taste (or whole grain mustard)
- 2 tablespoons good-quality white wine vinegar
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 1 medium shallot , peeled and finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon capers , optional
- ½ clove garlic , finely grated
- 1 small handful fresh parsley
Add it all to the jar, screw on the lid tight and getting shaking. Make sure the beans are still warm when you drizzle over the dressing. I like to also add some chopped walnuts too.
Once I have planted the beans out, if I have any leftover I’ll send them with Richard to the café and if anyone wants one, pop in and pick one up, let me know how you get on.