James Wong – and the Homegrown Revolution

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Posted 25 June 2013 17:30


Yesterday, I popped into the Buckingham Garden Centre to watch James Wong give a talk, to promote his new book ‘Homegrown Revolution’.

James Wong giving a talk on the HomeGrown Revolution.

James Wong, from London; is an ethnobotanist, television presenter and garden designer, best known for presenting the television series Grow Your Own Drugs and reporting onCountryfile.

In his talk, he told us to ignore the myths that are written in books:

  • Around 60% of what is written in gardening books is made up for self-interest – it was written in the Victorian times, by people whose job it was to grow certain types of crop, so they said that things had to be planted in certain ways and in certain climates
  • Some things (such as potatoes) are cheaper to purchase from a supermarket than to grow at home

Many fruits and vegetables are very hard to grow without specialist tools and knowledge – for example cucumber, which only tastes good when it has been well looked after (it is bitter if it has been attacked by any pests, such as slugs) and picked when it is just right. So it is much better to buy cucumber from a supermarket, instead of trying to grow it at home.

Also, can you imagine life growing up without celery and cauliflower? Well apparently demand for these has been declining for a long time and because they are hard to grow, they are quickly becoming commercially unviable, so might not be in supermarkets in 10 years time!

He also talked about how crops such as green tea, kiwi fruit, saffron and sweet potatoes will grow perfectly happily in England, so we shouldn’t limit our growing of things here to ‘typically English’ produce such as potatoes, sprouts and swedes. This is because climates in different parts of the world can be similar, such as England and halfway up a large mountain in the Andes!

James Wong giving a talk on the HomeGrown Revolution.

He told a good story about his friend Nathan (who he stole his photo from on Facebook to use in his presentation, but his friend doesn’t know because he hasn’t been to any of James’s 66 presentations yet) bought an allotment in London and spent a year travelling to it by taxi, buying all the very best clothing and tools, researching everything from a number of books, but ultimately failing to make a success of it.

James also showed how you don’t need much space to grow a variety of fruit and vegetables. He has dug up his mother’s front garden and turned it into a test bed!

James Wong's mum's front garden.

James Wong's mum's front garden - test bed.

The UK has just had 2 of the worst years on record in terms of climate, but James sees this as a good thing – extreme conditions for testing his plants.

James is a natural presenter, funny, knowledgeable and captivating to watch. I learned so much from his presentation.

If you would like to see James for yourself, check out his tour dates. If you can’t wait that long, check out his videos.

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