In the kitchen garden with… Paula Magessi

The Minigarden kitchen garden has been conquering more and more enthusiasts. This time, we focus on a family from Charneca da Caparica, Lisbon – Portugal, with an old passion for agriculture. The lack of time and space had always made it impossible to fulfil their dream. The Minigarden team had the chance to keep up with this recent urban kitchen garden, and thus was able to witness a dream coming true.   Paula Magessi tells us: “This was our personal project. Every detail was carefully thought-out, including the watering.” Paula knew the secret of cultivation is in choosing a good watering system, and Minigarden was prepared to provide it. “Your drip watering system gives each plant the necessary water and nutrition, avoiding the waste of such an important resource as water. We also chose to add a computer for the water tap, a fertilizer dispenser device and a pressure reducing filter, making it an automatic irrigation and nutrition system. This was a great solution, considering our daily free time was limited.”… “The kitchen garden grows and feeds by itself,” Paula tells us with great enthusiasm. She also adds: “In less than half a square meter we were able to have more than 106 plants that absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen.”… “My grandchildren love it.” With this experience, the family from Charneca da Caparica learned the increasing importance of easily growing, harvesting and eating, while knowing exactly what’s in each plant, aromatic herb or fruit we eat. “It was amazing to see that in less than a month the lettuce heads and cucumbers were ready to be harvested. Knowing what we...

My Vegetable Garden at home

Family daily life I’m extremely happy with my vegetable garden. I wouldn’t change anything about it — just its scale. Without any doubt, I’ll increase its size in the near future. When I decided to grow vegetables at home, the decisive element that outweighed all others was my family. I wanted to teach my daughters how to grow vegetables, and for them to understand the benefits of this natural lifestyle (not to mention they got to eat authentically flavoured salads and meals). My daughters understand now how much pleasure and passion goes into growing something as beautiful as strawberries — my first production. Because they were still little and loved the red-tinted sweet fruits, the choice came easy. It still makes me overwhelmingly happy to watch them pick the ripe fruits and quickly eat them. Over the years, they’ve learned that any fruit, when it’s freshly and timely picked, tastes better than a supermarket-bought fruit. These experiences have contributed to their personal growth and have changed the way they interact with family, friends, and overall community. My vegetable patch grows, my daughters grow taller, and the domestic routine grows closer to the true routine of a community that shares fresh produce and gets together to prepare meals. As a new and important element of the family, the vegetable garden plays an important role in our everyday life: ‘Mum, do you want a lemonade with fresh peppermint?’ ‘Dad, please teach me how to pick celery because mum wants to use it to season the rice.’ How my vegetable garden grew As I began to understand Minigarden’s true potential, I became...

Minigarden and indoor plants for a lovely home

A house decorated with plants is without a doubt more comforting and beautiful. After a long day outside, opening the front door and seeing a living being — even a non-thinking one — is heart-warming. Its gleaming flowers and leaves will surely bring joy to a grinding, grey day. As I read somewhere, flowers at home inspire the possibility of growth and prosperity — an encouraging thought. Adding one plant to an ensemble of home fixtures is already a step to domestic blissfulness however solitary. So allow yourself to be more creative, and provide some company to the aloof plant sitting in the corner. Because the range of decorative options is quite wide, the most important thing is to choose one source of inspiration: a colour, a theme, one picture. Anything goes. Then, after choosing the plants that best suit the room, and with the help of Minigarden, play around with the disposition. Flowers and colour: the easiest recipe Let’s start with an easily appealing idea: colourful flowers. Plants can be an indoors source of light and colour. If you enjoy colour coordinating your life, create a single-toned patch by choosing different species with similar-hued flowers. For a dramatic effect, make sure the plants bloom at about the same time. For example, African Violets have tiny purple flowers that match beautifully with Gloxinias, Oxalis, and Brazilian Fireworks. These ornamental plantas bear flowers all year long, except for the Brazilian Fireworks that only blossom from August to November. If you prefer fiery tones, go for Geraniums and Begonias. Decoration using leaves   Flowers are not the only show-stopping feature of...

Manuel Rodrigues – the creator of Minigarden

Manuel Rodrigues, born in Guilheiro — county of Trancoso, Portugal — is the creative mind responsible for bringing about Minigarden. Besides being a successful entrepreneur in many areas — industry, commerce, services, and agriculture — Manuel Rodrigues is a nature lover, a liking he assures to have existed since his birth. For him, being close to plants is as natural as having a curious spirit and a sharp mind. Luckily, he has been blessed with keen instincts, which have been useful from when he ploughed his family’s grounds as a kid until now. Although he is the creator of Minigarden, Manuel doesn’t think of himself as an inventor, but a gadgeteer who travelled to Lisbon at the age of twelve to work and to study business. His professional life is marked by an almost obsessive appreciation for organisation, a characteristic that has set him apart from the competition, consequently, Manuel has been commended for his solutions to the efficiency in the workplace, and in industrial processes. His innate curiosity and nearly genetic love for nature were the boosters of a new project that started at the time of his retirement: Minigarden. In a room at the official residence of Minigarden, surrounded by vertically potted plants, Manuel Rodrigues talked to me about his life, and futuristic ideas for the Urban Green Revolution that he’s began implementing around the world. Ana Rosado: Can you tell us the story of Minigarden’s start? Manuel Rodrigues: When I built the house I live in now, I planned a retaining wall about seven metres tall. Every time I looked up at the wall, I wasn’t...

How to have lettuce at the tip of your fingers

My fridge would be barren without lettuce. Except for a few times, my weekly grocery shopping always includes some form of this pleasantly green vegetable: Romaine, Looseleaf, or Butterhead. As the main ingredient of a great salad, lettuce cannot be missing from the dinner table, especially during summer, when the suffocating heat imposes itself on our meal choices. Luckily, growing lettuce at home isn’t the least bit difficult — no more than going out to buy some and certainly safer. If you have any kids around, get them to help you, as they will love being a part of the process, which may also be an incentive to eat more vegetables: lettuce is fun, so it can only be tasty. Green: the colour of sustainability and health There’s no way around it: the more colour on a plate, the healthier the meal, and green is a mandatory presence. Having lots of lettuce leaves in your fridge is a sure way to keep your health on track. Despite being a low calorie food, lettuce is high in nutrients and iron, and helps fighting insomnia. Hair and skin beauty also goes hand in hand with eating well, and it is thought that drinking lettuce juice, on a regular basis, stimulates hair growth. Also, keep in mind that the darker leaves of lettuce are more nutritious but they are all equally delicious. Albeit its scrumptiousness, if the roots of the lettuce are unknown, you’ll be in the dark about the kind of chemicals used in its production. In this case, not even lettuce with all its nutrients can be of any benefit....

How to grow your own strawberries

It isn’t summer until we get our hands on some delicious strawberries, the perfect reminder of the hot season’s flavour. People simmer with the expectation, looking forward to taking a bite out of this fervent red fruit, anticipating its freshness. There’s nothing better than clamping your teeth on the freckled skin of a sweet strawberry. Strawberry plants are known for their fruits, however, their yellow centred flowers with white petals shouldn’t be treated as stepdaughters. This year, there’s no excuse for not growing strawberries at home — maintaining them is simple and you’ll get great fruits to make amazing dishes on those hot summer nights. Besides, there’s a big difference between shop bought and homegrown strawberries. Just try not to be scared about their little size: intense flavour comes in smaller packages. Health, flavour and fun A list of the health benefits and delicious moments offered by strawberries could be deemed purposeless because we’re all familiar with their greatness. Still, it’s important to point out that strawberries are not just delicious, they are also a good source of vitamin C, fibre, and potassium. Moreover, strawberries help prevent cancer, improve eye health and keep a beautiful looking skin. There are also three recipes I like preparing with homegrown strawberries. The first one is strawberry lemonade, which is a mandatory, easy to make combination for anyone looking to keep body temperature cool. During summer’s blazing heat, there’s nothing better than light meals, so I always make a delicious salad of strawberries, avocado, cheese and spinach, served with a honey, lemon juice and mustard dressing. Finally, use the last strawberries of summer...