Growing Communities

For its Hackney Salad

Hackney SaladOur judges said, "Best appearance, great mix, fresh and diverse, crunchy, summery."

Growing Communities' Hackney Salad contains up to 123 varieties of leaf and flower over the year. It's grown on urban market gardens and 'Patchwork Farm' sites around the east London borough.

Growing Communities call their salad 'virtually zero-food-miles' as it is grown without mechanical tools or equipment of any kind, then brought on bicycle trailers to their base to be packed.

It is delivered to cafés and shops by bike, or to the pick-up points for their box scheme by electric milkfloat. A total of 98% of box scheme members walk, cycle or use public transport (just 4.8%) to collect their bags.

Leaves are harvested on Tuesdays, salad bags are packed on Tuesday evenings and delivered the same or the following day, so refrigeration is minimised.

Rain water is harvested on all their sites. One of our market gardens has an eco-building with a sedum roof to attract beneficial insects. Growing Communities create insect hotels and different sheltered environments such as nettle patches and woodpiles which are used by a range of animals.   

All the markets gardens have ponds and land set aside for wildlife. Compost is made on site, using fruit and veg and trimmings from the box scheme and garden waste. Seed compost is made from leaves collected in Springfield Park (which is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and therefore not sprayed).  

Growing Communities create jobs in horticulture by training apprentices in organic growing on their market gardens. The apprentices are then given a plot of land in the Patchwork Farm to grow their own salad, offering them a guaranteed market for the produce they grow.

There were more than 100 volunteers last year who spent 1,400 hours on the sites in total. Volunteers are of all ages from 16 to 67, who see their time in our gardens as a tonic for their mental and physical health. In return for their help, Growing Communities make sure that they are actively providing volunteers with an education in horticultural techniques.  

Weekly sessions for special needs groups are also run at the Clissold Park and Springfield sites. Visits are encouraged from local nurseries and schools, and this year one of the raised beds has been given over solely for a school group to work on.    

Growing Communities also promote health and community knowledge through  education projects which they run with both adults and schools groups. This year's learning programme has included:  

  • Cob oven workshops with local secondary school pupils   
  • Farm to Fork Salad workshops with a local primary school   
  • Organic and seasonal cookery workshops with veg bag produce with a local primary school   
  • Cookery workshops for Growing Communities' volunteers  
  • Herbal Plants workshops for families
  • Toddler and carer morning sessions with minibeast hunts, seed sowing, scent trails etc  

Any produce which does not get sold is donated to London Action for the Homeless.

To find out more visit

Annie’s Hackney Salad Dressing

In summer and autumn, the leaves in Hackney Salad tend to be deliciously sweet, but those that flourish in winter tend to be a little more bitter, calling for a sweeter dressing, such as this, created by one of Growing Communities' patchwork farmers.


  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp blackcurrant (or other) jam
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bag Hackney Salad, washed


  • Mix the vinegar, oil, mustard, jam and seasoning together (putting them in a jam-jar and shaking well is the easiest way) then pour over the salad leaves.

Gold winners in the Fruit and Vegetables category


Bookmark and Share

Bookmark and Share