Meet Alok - Community Gardening Project Officer at St Luke's We asked Alok, our Community Gardening Project Officer a few questions about his life, and role at St Luke's! Where were you before coming to St Luke’s? All of the below at the same time over the last 3-4 years- * Sessional food growing facilitator for Organiclea’s Outreach Program on 2 sites in Leytonstone. * Salad grower for a local restaurant in Waltham Forest trialling Chef Supported Agriculture (salaried rather than selling produce). * Nursery Assistant at Clifton Nurseries, Warwick Avenue. * Private gardener/ consultant specialising in food growing projects on rooftops for restaurants in South London. How did you find out about St Luke’s? Through Capital Growth – they have a roots to work website and also they supported a lot of my work. I applied for the job at the last minute so quite lucky to have made it! How long have you been here? Since April 2018 What have you been working on in the Edible Yard? Mostly observing the ecosystem we have in the edible yard and how can we improve it. Currently Marco and I are working on planning for next year and thinking about the big changes that can/will happen next year. It is a very exciting time as we have a lot of amazing things in the pipeline! On the gardening side - planting out and protecting all our salad crops/garlic/broad beans and onions. Utilising the greenhouse to the max to ensure we have a lot of greens overwinter…and also growing in tiny containers to show good ways to our participants of how to grow in small urban spaces. Which is your favourite plant in the Edible Yard? There are 2 – Stevia rebuadiana (candyleaf) which is a sugar substitute native to Brazil, it surprises everyone when they try it as it is 100 times sweeter than sugar (a bit cloying actually!). I also like Cobaea Scandens (cup and saucer) which is not edible but produces these amazing flowers which are out of this world. It is a climber which literally choked our poor quince tree this summer. I am hoping that it will overwinter and come back stronger next year. What would you like to see happen in the Edible Yard in the next 12 months? I would like to see no cars, lots of wildlife and more people using it for different community-based/social activities. Best bit about working at St Luke’s so far? I like the community centre a lot. The members are amazing and the staff is caring but the best bit has to be dining hall. I like seeing everyone eating together. For me that is real community. What do you enjoy doing in your spare time? I am a total plantaholic so I am either reading up on nature, environment, sustainability or trying to identify street trees or listening to related podcasts. Also like foraging for food plants and cut flowers, Other than that I am into making Islamic geometric designs and making Hexaflexagons from paper. Favourite meal / food? I like Ramen a lot and Middle Eastern food like Falafels. To see what the Gardening team are working on, visit their section of the website!