Thanks to the latest technology, an abandoned air raid shelter thirty-three metres below Clapham High Street is being used to grow ‘micro herbs’ including fennel, garlic chives and pea shoots. The sustainable salad crop will go on sale in M&S stores for the first time this week.
This new, sustainable salad farm was created by start-up company Growing Underground, who have been backed by celebrity chefs including Jamie Oliver and Michel Roux Jr. The herbs are grown using aquaponics – a system of aquaculture in which the waste produced by aquatic creatures supplies the nutrients for the plants, which in turn purify the water and keep the creatures alive. By growing the salad this way, it means crops can be grown all year round, regardless of weather conditions, in a perfect, pesticide-free environment which uses 70% less water than traditional methods.
Charlotte Curtis, M&S Agronomist, said: “We love the idea of urban farming and making the most of the spaces we have in our cities. The herbs are harvested when only a few centimetres in height, meaning the taste is concentrated within the tiny leaves and the flavours are incredible. My favourite is the Indian mix which is lovely added to a warm naan bread with chicken, minted yogurt, a few red chillies and some mango chutney.”
Micro herbs are traditionally used in fine dining, so this is the first time they will be available on the high street. The in-house development chefs at M&S have created four herb mixes based on different cuisines. The salads are now available in selected M&S stores, priced at £3 per pack:
- British Mix Micro Salad – pea shoots, broccoli shoots, salad rocket, pink stem radish
- Indian Mix Micro Salad – pea shoots, coriander, garlic chives, purple radish
- Italian Mix Micro Salad – pea shoots, fennel, garlic chives, red mustard
- Japanese Mix Micro Salad – pea shoots, wasabi mustard, garlic chives, purple radish
I can’t wait to try these new salads and I love the idea of using forgotten underground spaces to grow fresh, sustainable food. I’d love to see something like this taking place in some of Cardiff’s forgotten tunnels and subways!
In Wales, if you want to find out more about farming with aquaponics, you can visit the aquaponics centre at Kate Humble’s Humble By Nature farm in Monmouth. In fact, for anyone who might be thinking of setting up an aquaponics system of their own, they even run a very thorough five day course.