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Edible Eastside: sustainable eating in the city

Written by
Ellen Manning

When it comes to food, terms like 'locally-sourced' and 'sustainable' are often bandied around. Just how much of that talk translates to what ends up on the table can often be hard to see. Not so with Edible Eastside and it's Kitchen School.

Credit: Jayne Bradley, Edible Eastside

Based in Digbeth, Edible Eastside is a thriving kitchen garden with a difference. Located on quarter of an acre of what was once derelict canal side land, the not-for-profit project shows just what's possible when it comes to growing food in cities.

As well as renting plots to people who want to grow food, the garden holds community events to encourage sustainable living as well as work with food banks, community groups and students.

Rather than leaving things there, Edible Eastside director Jayne Bradley puts this food to good use at her Kitchen School, which hosts informal cookery classes that she runs out of her home in Edgbaston.

A class at the Kitchen School, Birmingham

Ellen Manning

The Kitchen School offers cooking lessons and supper clubs across a range of styles and food types, teaching foodies and wannabe cooks anything from pasta making and baking, to cooking the perfect steak or throwing a stress-free dinner party. 

Pasta-making at the Kitchen School

Ellen Manning

There are also masterclasses where you can develop culinary techniques, such as a being shown how to carve the best cuts of meat by a butcher, followed by a dinner that uses as much of the meat as possible.

Not just a chance to brush up on your skills, Jayne says many students also see it as an alternative night out, as well as a place for singletons to meet new people.

For the supper clubs, diners can experience a unique, three course eating experience. Hosted by guest chefs, they will explore exciting seasonal ingredients, and provide the opportunity to discover some of the chef's preparation and cooking secrets.

Pasta-making at The Kitchen School, Birmingham

Ellen Manning

Despite her success so far, Jayne's dreams for the future is to move the school to a Victorian house on the Digbeth garden site, bringing the two parts of the organisation together and creating a permanent location on what is currently a temporary space.

The aim is for the Kitchen School to take up the former canal keeper's house at the Digbeth site. This would double the school's capacity, with a larger professional kitchen and space for the supper clubs on the first floor. 

Of course, such grand ideas don't come cheap. Jayne hopes to move in mid 2016, but the project needs between £30,000 to £100,000 for the refurbishment of the listed building alone. The cost will be part-funded by loans, but the organisation's status as a social enterprise limits its access to finances. 

Earlier in the year, Jayne launched a successful crowdfunding campaign, which helped get the ball rolling, but it's likely to be the first of many fundraising efforts.

Hens at Edible Eastside, Birmingham

Jayne Bradley Ghosh, Edible Eastside

Combining Edible Eastside and the Kitchen School on one site will make the emphasis on sustainability and locally-sourced food even easier to convey, with food grown in the gardens finding its way immediately into the cookery school. A 'farm to fork' experience, if you like.

For many people it may seem like a Herculean task. But from the woman who took a derelict inner city site and turned it into a garden, and made her own home into a cookery school, it certainly seems possible.

Edible Eastside, 122 Fazeley Street, Birmingham, B5 5RS. Find more information here.

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