Is there any better gift to receive at Christmas than a home-grown one?
During lockdown, Sharon Ritchie bought her first greenhouse and began growing a range of herbs, fruit, vegetables, and edible flowers. With bumper crops producing lots of excess produce, Sharon began making making jams, chutneys, oils, salads, and soups that she gave to friends and neighbours to save them from going to waste.
Living just outside Edinburgh, Sharon quickly fell in love with growing her own produce. After giving up her job as a pharmacist to become a full time carer for her youngest daughter with complex disabilities, she found sowing, growing, and nurturing her own kitchen crops a therapeutic way to relax in her spare time.
“My neighbours often told me,” said Sharon, “that they loved receiving my home-grown produce and that they would make great gifts, especially for Christmas.
“For me though, it was about keeping busy, and being creative which helped reduce the stress of my caring responsibilities. There is no better feeling than getting out in the fresh air, growing a small, edible crop from scratch, knowing you’ve really accomplished something.
“More and more people began requesting my home-made items over the last year so I have decided to try and turn my hobby into a career, and I am now taking the first steps to begin my home-grown business.”
If you would like to try growing edibles to package as gorgeous, home-grown Christmas presents, Sharon has let us in on some of her secrets.
Dried Herbs: Firstly I plant seeds for my favourite herbs. Once they have matured I take some cuttings and dry them. A tip I use to dry them is to use two pieces of kitchen towel placed in the microwave for 5 – 10 second bursts a few times. Next, I strip the leaves and put them into recycled or reclaimed, sterilised jars with a small label.
Infused Oils: To create my infused oils, I first gently warm an organic olive oil over a low to medium heat. I then add my chosen homegrown herb/spice/citrus to the oil until warm. Take it off the heat and let cool, then decant into sterilised reclaimed bottles and store for up to one month in the refrigerator.
To turn these into a lovely gift hamper I find a basket or box from a charity shops or local recycling store such as Zero Waste Scotland, and package it altogether using waste packing paper or shredded card.