Nathalie Aby – Full interview

My Story

I’m Nathalie, originally from France, but I’ve been living here for more than 20 years now. I’ve been volunteering for 3 years. I work with Lutfun on the vegetable garden. I try to come here at least once a week.

I like the space and I like what they grow here, especially what Lutfun grows which is mainly, Asian vegetables. It’s an interesting experience to see what you can grow in the UK, what is normally grown in Asia.

Why I grow my own food

To grow your own thing is fascinating. Nature gives you a different sense of time.

Why I save seeds

I save them, well just to keep going with them. I think it’s important to keep a reserve. Because I like the experience of growing from the seed. So every year I will start again from the seed. I like the idea of taking care of the seed and then seeing the final fruit. The entire cycle. That’s what I enjoy. And I’m happy to share them as well if people are willing to have the same experience.

How I feel when I work in the garden

Nature is very rewarding in a very simple way. That’s what I like, the simplicity. I’ve been away for two weeks and in two weeks it’s amazing to go back to the garden and see how it’s grown. I think during the cycle it’s a good experience to go away for a couple of weeks, come back and see how nature has progressed. It’s just the simplicity of it, and the space. I think it’s a wonderful space here. To be able to access that space when you live in London, has become almost a luxury. It has become precious. I live in central London, so you can imagine what it is just to have this little spot. It’s like a little oasis here. And I found some nice people as well. And learnt a lot.

It’s good in general for the mind. It’s relaxing. You focus on something simple. It’s a manual activity as well, which I realised I like in my life. It’s doing simple things with your hands. And look at the reward! It’s pretty amazing.

Connection between growing and my heritage

My parents had a little house in the countryside. We lived in the city, just outside of Paris and we had a small house one hour away from Paris and we used to go every weekend. My Dad was a keen grower as well, and I think that’s where I got the love of it. I started I think when I was about 8. And then as a teenager I was probably interested in other things. It’s something that came back to me.

Nathalie on French Chilies

This type of chili is from the southwest of France. It’s grown in a town called Espelette. My sister game me some chilies and I decided to grow them here. That was three years ago.

How to grow

Around April I would normally put the seeds in moist cotton wool to make them germinate. When they reach between 2-5 centimetres, with small leaves, transfer them to compost. They start germinating pretty quickly, within a couple of weeks you will start seeing the shoot coming out of the seed. When the plant is strong enough and has built a root system, then you can transfer them into compost. They don’t need manure in the early stages because it might burn them. Transfer the plant when it’s about 10 cm and it’s got enough leaves, into bigger pots, and then add manure. Just water. Either from the top, or just leave some water in a little reserve at the bottom. You can start seeing fruit end of July, but they’re still green. The fruit will probably turn red end of August or September. They are ready as soon as they’re red.


A chilli requires heat and sun. In the southwest of France they are perfectly happy outdoors. Here it’s safer to grow them indoors. They don’t require a lot of maintenance or attention. They are pretty easy to grow.


I dry them for cooking. The taste is sweet, not too spicy. I use them to replace pepper, just to give that extra kick. It could be in a curry or any fried dish.

How to save seed

Once they’re dried, I will cut them open and remove the seeds. Put them in a little jar and store them in the cupboard.