'Unusal uses for vegetables' by Sarah Burgess

Don’t say that I didn’t warn you that I was going to be scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of what to write about as we head towards 19 weeks since the start of lockdown!  There’s not a lot left to choose from in 19 ways to stay connected with nature during COVID-19, but since I came up with the ideas it seems only fair that I try them out.  However, it’s not so much scraping the barrel but rather the compost bin, as I search for an elderly potato and put it to good use.  When we were pulling together ideas, my colleague suggested painting with vegetables and I went along with it.  I even experimented with a stick of celery and the results were reasonable, but I wasn’t sure where I was going to go from there.  Then last week, browsing instagram I found that an old friend had made a new account to track some of her artistic endeavours and she’d tried potato printing. Her suggestion was to use the outline of the potato as the shape of the monstera leaf (or cheese plant) and then work in the “Swiss cheese” elements.  I thought I’d give it a go.

So what did I learn?  Firstly that it is much harder to make pleading faces when approaching your friendly local grocer for free potatoes when you are wearing a face mask.  Luckily mine is used to my weird requests and was happy to oblige.  (And if you do want to give this a go, I really would suggest seeking out freebie boxes in your local shop, I just wasn’t sure how over-ripe lychee printing would turn out!) Secondly, that time passes very quickly when I am surrounded by potatoes and paint.  I was nearly late to online yoga, forgot about lunch and had to drag myself away from the printing and back to the computer to write this. 

During lockdown this has been a positive though, using creative activity as a distraction from the stressful nature of the outside world.  I’ve tried out so many different things and it’s usually only when I finish that I realise just how immersed I was in the activity.  This state of  flow as identified by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi is where people are at their happiest.

Don’t forget that growing houseplants can also be beneficial for mental and physical health, and with many of us at home so much more at the moment, even as restrictions start to lift, perhaps a plant could make your house a healthier and happier environment.  Reading the list of suggested benefits here which includes reduced stress levels and increased productivity, makes me think that employers everywhere should be dispatching a nice big leafy green plant to each and every employee currently working from home.  It’s not just restricted to the home though, patients in hospital rooms with plants reported decreased post-operative pain.

So this week you’ll find me (and the floor) covered in green paint.  It seems a little odd – yet lucky – that when I went searching for paint during lockdown, the only colour I had was green.

Finally I am excited to let you know, that as restrictions are easing and as some organisations are welcoming back volunteers – all be it in a limited manner – the Green Volunteering Network are having their first formal zoom meeting on Tuesday 28th July at 2.00pm.  If you are already on my mailing list then you’ll have received notification of this, but if you are not and would like to join us, then please do let me know so I can add you. sarah.burgess@vaslan.org.uk