Placeholder Picture

The Voice - February 2022

Comment by Geoff

Geoff Juden

In London there is an opportunity to influence our urban environment in a good way because local politicians are up for election in May 2022.

Politics has become more intrusive into our lives as most decisions that affect us are made by local politicians. Inevitably they have their own agenda, but we have a chance to improve our urban environment, especially in London.

Some local authorities are better than others. However, there are alarming examples where parks and gardens in London are not being cared for in the appropriate manner. We must address the local environment, not only for ourselves, but for our children.

If you value having someone campaign on your behalf to protect the environment and having access to useful articles about gardening and local environmental matters, please make a donation to help us with the cost of maintaining The East London Garden Society.


Sugar is constantly being blamed for the nation's ill health and obesity. Therefore, it is worth exploring the alternatives. 


Many may not have heard of the Stevia, but its benefits are well known. In earlier years, sugar was a strange part of the diet. The Tudors were some of the first recipients of sugar, but then it was a different taste.

Stevia is becoming more well known as a natural alternative, and as with sugar, the taste at first may seem strange. However, Stevia appears not to have the ill effects that come with sugar. 

As we lead more sedentary lifestyles, obesity is becoming more prominent, together with the detrimental effects of diabetes. It is therefore up to all of us to explore other ways to satisfy our sweet tooth.

Stevia can be readily purchased but growing it as a house plant is another way of obtaining it. Choose an area where the plant will obtain full sun. Stevia grows best in areas that have good drainage and receive full sun. Choose a place that doesn’t have puddles of water after rain as this indicates there isn’t good drainage. Avoid choosing an area that is mostly shaded.

If you live in a hot climate, plant in an area that receives slight afternoon shade. If the temperature falls below freezing at any point during the year, plant each Stevia seedling in a pot that is 46 cm wide and 46 cm high and keep it indoors until the temperature is consistently above freezing.

Tomatoes - Top Growing Tips

The tomato is one of the most cultivated plants in East London so here are some growing tips.

Plant seedlings two feet apart, pinching off the lower branches prior to planting. Plant the root ball deep enough so that the remaining lowest leaves are just above the surface of the soil and water well to reduce shock to the roots.

You'll need to water the plants for the first few days and continue to give them about two inches each week throughout the summer.

There are many other variables that may influence the final outcome of your tomatoes, including most importantly, their taste.

A tomato's flavour is the result of interplay between sugars, acids and other chemicals that give a tomato its scent. The more direct sunlight your tomatoes get, the sweeter they'll taste.

Too much water can dilute the tomato’s flavour so only water two to three times during hot summer months. Experiments suggest that so-called ‘salt fertilization’ or dousing the plants with natural sea salt solution, improves the tomato’s flavour but be careful not to burn the foliage.

Soil quality matters and in particular, soil with plenty of organic matter or compost is best. Adding compost to the soil is important for a number of reasons, one of which is that it's a good source of sulphur, a compound that's often missing from soil, but is not measured by standard soil fertility tests.

Sulphur is especially important, because it forms organic compounds in the plant that gives flavour to vegetables. Adding crushed eggshells to your soil is another simple trick. Being rich in calcium, adding them as a supplement to the soil around tomato plants helps to provide nutrition and moderate soil acidity.

Also, tomatoes that have a handful of eggshell meal worked into the planting site are not likely to develop blossom end rot. By optimising soil composition and nutrient application, you can increase your yield six to eight times.

You have to have different expectations and you have to begin managing your crops differently. For example, when you are expecting to produce 60 to 70 pounds of tomatoes per plant, you no longer plant 12 inches apart.

That doesn't work logistically so you have to begin spacing tomato plants two and a half to three feet apart. But all of a sudden, you only need three tomato plants instead of thirty-six!


The liquorice plant is an herbaceous perennial legume native to Western Asia, North Africa, and Southern Europe. It is used as a flavouring in sweets and tobacco, particularly in some European and West Asian countries.

Liquorice extracts have long been used in herbalism and traditional medicine. Excessive consumption of liquorice may result in adverse effects. 

The taste is reinforced by aniseed oil, so the actual content of liquorice is very low. Liquorice confections are primarily purchased by consumers in Europe but are also popular in other countries such as Australia and New Zealand.

In the Netherlands, the liquorice drop is one of the most popular forms of sweets and is sold in many forms such as mixing it with mint, menthol, aniseed, or laurel.

Dried sticks of the liquorice root are also a traditional confectionery in their own right in the Netherlands as they were once in Britain although their popularity has waned in recent decades. Through chewing and suckling, the intensely sweet flavour is released.

The sweetness is 30 to 50 times as strong as sucrose, without causing damage to teeth. Pontefract in Yorkshire, England, is where liquorice mixed with sugar began to be used as a sweet in the contemporary way. Pontefract cakes were originally made there.

In Italy, Spain and France, liquorice is popular in its natural form. The root of the plant is simply dug up, washed, dried, and chewed as a mouth freshener. Throughout Italy, unsweetened liquorice is consumed in the form of small black pieces made only from 100% pure liquorice extract. In Calabria, a popular liqueur is made from pure liquorice extract. Liquorice is used in Syria and Egypt, where it is sold as a drink in shops and by street vendors

For several millennia, liquorice has been one of the most commonly used remedies in natural medicine. It was used as a throat pastille which is how it took its place on sweet shelves.

Liquorice comes from the juice of the roots of the plant Glycyrrhiza Glabra. Today, it grows in a belt from North Africa, across the Middle East and to China. Some of the oldest recorded uses of liquorice are also found here.

The history of liquorice can be dated to 2300 BC and there is a record which shows liquorice being used as a magic plant that rejuvenated ageing men. Liquorice root was also amongst the many treasures found in the Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun's tomb from 1350 BC. Scholars still do not know why.

Liquorice was a common ingredient in many of the remedies from ancient Greece including a cough medicine. It was in this role that liquorice was to play in modern times, where it became a common ingredient in cough syrup because of its relieving and anti-inflammatory effects.

Ga-Jol from 1933 is one of the oldest existing liquorice products. It was launched as a throat pastille against hoarse throat and coughing. The very first products were liquorice shapes, salt pastilles, eucalyptus pastilles and coloured shapes with fruit flavour.

Food Waste Recycling

A national UK law is coming into force early January 2025 to make local authorities have a food waste recycling scheme in operation. In previous years there used to be the ‘pig swill man’, but since the swine flu outbreak in the 1970’s little has ever been achieved with regard to food waste recycling.

There are many types of schemes, but London authorities are struggling to implement one.

We are proposing a scheme whereby food waste is turned into a biomass and then utilised for the the borough's parks and gardens.

Of course, such a scheme will have to be accepted by residents and business in the local area, which is why it’s important to prepare the ground before food waste recycling becomes mandatory.

The alternative is that local authorities increase the council tax for a scheme that has not been tried. If local authorities adopt a scheme that fails, we would be no better forward.

Cooking in a Different Way ‐ Decorative Swiss Role


For the decorative sponge paste:

For the sponge:

For the filling::


Finally ...

Previous issues of The VoiceBack to Top