“It’s easy for people to see the glamorous part of owning an urban garden, but a lot of work goes into sustaining it.” – Uzo Orimalade
We would like to know more about Uzo of Uzo’s Food Labs- Tell us about the creative person behind the project. What was the inspiration behind Uzo’s Food Labs?
My name is Uzo Orimalade, I am the creative director of Uzo’s Food Labs. A food consultancy that provides services to local and international brands in the hospitality industry. I am passionate about food and teaching.
We would like to know more about your garden, how did it start and how’s it going?
I started my Urban Garden because I thought it would look good on my culinary entertainment shows to do some scenes with me in my garden like a segment of me harvesting things to cook. But I fell in love with gardening, so I moved from wanting to do it alone to wanting to grow everything in the world. Mostly things that people would say cannot be grown on Nigerian soil; I am getting there. Right now, everything we plant in the garden is for home consumption.
What’s your best plant or seed in the garden?
That would be my greens, specifically kale because it has a multitude of uses – from traditional meals to smoothies.
If someone were to start an urban garden in Lagos, what are the top three things they need to know?
You would need to understand that because it is an urban garden, you would need to plant a lot of flowers to attract insects that would pollinate the plants because you are farming in a concrete space. Secondly, you need to learn to manage space, and you can do that by using pots or containers, basically, things that are easy to move around. Another option to try is vertical gardening.
What’s the most difficult thing about owning a garden?
It has to be dedication. It’s easy for people to see the glamorous part of owning an urban garden, but a lot of work goes into sustaining it. Dedicating oneself to take care of the plants, fertilize, pest control etc could be a lot. But if you are intentional, setting up a routine and keeping to it should be the next step.
Tell us about one spectacular experience or produce that came from your garden.
To be honest, everything about my urban garden is spectacular. It’s more interesting because I grow things that are peculiar in Nigeria, plants that you would think wouldn’t survive here. But I have some experiences that stand out. For instance, when I grew mammoth sunflowers that grew to over 12 feet tall. They became the talk of my estate. People would say have you seen that plant? Have you been to that place? To take pictures of it, we had to get really creative.
Another time was when different creatures started coming by the garden. I am talking about unexpected, barely-seen creatures like hummingbirds, blue jays and butterflies of different colors. It was beautiful to see; I cannot get over it.
One time, we also grew teardrop tomatoes. These yellow teardrop shaped tiny tomatoes that tasted like candy. It was so beautiful to see. Growing glass gem corn was also a huge win. The kernels are dazzling shades of blue, pink and purple and are of Native American Indian origin.
Do you grow tea plants in your garden? If yes, share with us some tips in honor of International Tea Day.
Unfortunately, I don’t grow tea plants at the moment. I am looking forward to trying my hands at that soon as I am currently growing coffee plants in my garden. But I think Tea infusions are a nice substitute. Tea infusions are brewed flowers, spices, or plants left in cold or hot water so the benefits of the property can be extracted. Some of the things you can brew are ginger and garlic, lemongrass, and mints; it could be any mint -peppermint, chocolate mint, etc.
What’s your best tea to have and why?
Definitely herbal and fruit flavored cold brewed teas; I don’t like hot things. Nigeria gets too hot sometimes; I boil water and add anything from lemon grass to mint and let Steep for a few minutes. I then put it in the fridge to cool and can enjoy it throughout the day.
It will be plant something day in a few days. What’s that one plant or herb that’s needed in everyone’s garden?
African basil is a must-have. Aside from the fact that it enhances the taste of anything and everything (Add it to white rice, stews, soups, salads and juices), it is also super easy to grow and hardy.
What’s that one thing about the culinary world that stands out to you?
The fact that everyone has their own niche and can reach their audience. You see someone who is doing food the traditional way having their own audience. Another person who is creating nothing related to Nigerian meals still has an audience. It’s beautiful to see that regardless of how you choose to flow or use food, you’d still get your audience. I also love that there’s room to learn from everybody.
Tell us one fun fact about you.
I am a voracious reader; I read about 90/100 books in different genres every year. So, I know little things about a lot of things, which makes me a perfect dinner party guest 🙂.
Keep up with Uzo on Instagram @UzosFoodLabs and learn more about the gardening life