Anwara Uddin – Full interview

My Story

My name is Anwara. I’m a housewife. I have two children. I live in a small flat. About four years ago Katherine came from Spitalfields farm and invited us to come and grow some vegetables. In the beginning we were scared and shy. I thought, how can I go outside, dig soil and grow food and vegetables? But my friend Halema and me, and then the other ladies, we made the Selby Street Gardening Club. Each time we meet in Selby Street community hall. At the end of the year we have a party. Everyone makes a separate dish. We take pictures of our vegetables and display them in the community hall, and everybody shares their experiences and seeds.

Why I grow my own food
I love growing my own food. I enjoy it. And I eat fresh food from my garden.

Why I save seeds
I save my own seed because next year I don’t have to buy seed.

Connection between growing and my heritage
I come from Bangladesh. When I was small I saw my mother growing these vegetables. I would help her. I have a brother and sister. We had a competition, whose plants grew quicker, which one produced more food. I saw how my mother looked after the garden. I learned with my mum.

How I feel when I’m working in the garden
When I came to this country I missed everything. After twenty years I started gardening. I live in a flat, without a garden. I am happy now I am growing my favourite plants. I feel better now. Before I thought, how can I go outside? It was very difficult for me. Now I feel very comfortable. I’m not scared of anything.

Before, all the neighbours spoke English. Just me, Bengali. When I went downstairs I said “Hello.” Nothing. I thought, oh my God, how do I speak? If I make a mistake they will laugh. I felt very shy. I was scared and thought how can I go outside and meet people and talk to them? But now I speak, and everybody is friendly. We talk a long time about their family, my family, about this country, the weather. Now I can discuss everything. I feel comfortable and very proud. Gardening gave me this experience and opportunity. It changed my life.

Anwara on Runner Beans

Where the seeds came from
Katherine from Spitalfields Farm gave me this bean when I first started gardening, and I saved them each year. This is the fourth year. I love these runner beans, they’re my favourite. They grow quickly and it’s very easy to harvest the seeds.

How to grow
I grow it first inside the home. I put it in compost, and after 3-4 days it starts growing. Then, once it’s grown a little, if the weather is good, I plant it in the soil. It gives so many beans. It’s not hard work, it just needs water every couple of days.

This year is not a good year. Every year I get a large plant and many beans. But this year has not been good. Ants have attacked this plant, and snails and slugs.

I cook it with meat or fish. I fry it with onion, chili, coriander leaf.
It’s very nice. I love this. My family, my children love this.