Get into the garden

Urban gardener and TV presenter James Wong doesn’t have a greenhouse, propagators or teams of gardeners, yet through obsessive trials in his own back garden he has managed to grow a range of exotic fruit and veg worthy of any Michelin-starred restaurant.

He laments that we’ve become stuck in a 1940s timewarp during the ‘grow your own’ revolution, barely moving beyond spuds, sprouts and swedes.

“We don’t eat the same stuff we did two generations ago, so why on earth should we be stuck growing it?” asks the Kew-trained botanist, who has fronted such TV programmes as the BBC’s Countryfile.

“Ironically, the biggest mistake people make is trying to grow exotic crops in greenhouses when they simply don’t need to.”

Wasabi, also known as Japanese horseradish, which is used as an accompaniment to popular dishes including sushi, is easier to grow than watercress, he insists.

Wasabi plants can’t stand the sunshine, but thrive in cool, wet, overcast settings, which makes them perfect for growing in this country.

“They like semi aquatic settings, on the banks of bogs or shady forest areas,” says Wong.

Plant out half a dozen small plants in a shady spot between early spring and early autumn, covering the area in a thick mulch of organic matter and place gravel around the plants to deter slugs and snails. Keep it in the shade in summer as they hate a lot of sun.

Get more helpful hints and advice with our gardening column every week.