The Backyard Larder

A place to explore and buy perennial vegetables and other food plants.


A secret seed club and invisible allotments! Ssh! But if you want to know more, read on…..

The snow fell silently. I sowed a few seeds and knocked snow from the greenhouse roof. Not much else has been happening during this cold spell.

Backyard under snow

So it was an ideal time to be contacted by a couple of Twitter friends with intriguing news of their food plant related crowdsourcing projects (‘crowdsourcing’ explanation below).

Emma Cooper wrote to tell me about her Secret Seed Club for Ethnobotanical Explorers on Patreon.Secret Club for Ethnobotanical Explorers

Emma is an ethnobotanist who has written several original gardening books, produced The Alternative Kitchen Garden Show podcast and writes The Unconventional Gardener Blog. She knows heaps of fascinating stuff about unusual edibles from around the world (her book, Jade Pearls and Alien Eyeballs, is an edible plant enthusiast’s inspiration).

Her new crowdsourced initiative can bring you both posts about rare things and rare things in the post. I think it is this rarity which justifies the bit of outlay involved. You can pay as little as $1 a month to support Emma in her ethnobotanical research – but double that and you’ll also get access to her monthly expedition posts. I don’t know what she has planned of course, but don’t be surprised if these take you to the ends of the earth – perhaps even to space knowing Emma! – or, very usefully, just around the corner to point out some unappreciated edible that’s been growing there quietly all along.

For $5 a month you can read more posts and also the books Emma will be blogging, and for $10 (about £7) you’ll receive those, plus a secret seed subscription in the mail. Secret because you won’t know each month what is going to be in it – you can just be pretty sure it isn’t something you’ve just bought from your local garden centre. In other words what you’ve signed up for is basically an edible plant nerd’s online magazine subscription with free seeds attached! My first (beautifully presented) mailing contained agretti or Sasola soda, along with a plant history and growing instructions.

Mat Coward
 sent news of his Eat Your Front Garden book project which he is creating through the crowdfunding publisher, Unbound.

Mat Coward

(Click the photo to hear Mat talking about the inspiration for Eat Your Front Garden)

Since 1993, Mat has been writing the monthly organic gardening column for the Morning Star (as well as being the author of children’s fantasy books, crime novels, short stories, and much else).
For me his gardening writing is a revelation because, amongst his accounts of growing sprouts, sugar snaps and sweet corn, you’ll find yourself reading about skirret, seakale and saffron. He has been trying out unusual edibles for quite a time.

Now Mat is turning his hand to writing about growing food in your front garden without appearing to do so! He’s drawing on his knowledge of ornamental edible plants; plants which will look beautiful but give you a harvest as well. I know a few perennial ones: daylilies and hostas spring immediately to mind, but there will be a lot more than that in there if he is going to fill a garden. It is definitely a concept that is worthy of a special book. And it is a concept I love. It forms part of a vision of it becoming genuinely commonplace for people to gather, say, a bunch of chives, some chard leaves or a few globe artichokes, from whatever constitutes their growing space when preparing to cook a meal. And I have a niggling feeling that when we really start to make use of all the ingenious ways there are of doing this: Mat’s ‘invisible allotments’ out the front (including plants in containers for hard-paved places); vertical gardening for using the walls and fences: roof, windowsill, floating, even car or cupboard gardens, then the yield will add up to something more significant than we expect.

Something quite special about Mat’s Unbound project is the range of available rewards. Depending on your contribution (ranging from £10 -£300) you might get a book, a garden consultation, an e-book package, a plant, writing done just for you – you can even request your own idea for a pledge reward! The pledges finance the initial production costs of the book and once the target is reached (with refunds given if it isn’t) Unbound will immediately start the process of editing, publishing and marketing Eat Your Front Garden.

Two great projects to support – I hope you enjoy them!

N.B. Crowdsourcing is a way that people obtain what they need in order to achieve a goal – be it ideas, funds, expertise etc – from a crowd of other people, generally online. Contributors are rewarded, perhaps simply because they are as keen as creators for the goal to be realised, but also because there are often specific rewards on offer for different contribution levels. There are crowdsourcing platforms (websites which help you organise it all) now for all manner of different types of crowdsourced projects.

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