The star chef’s backyard garden has inspired his most delicious recipes, including Moroccan carrot and avocado salad, creamy rice pudding with strawberry jam and grilled tuna with tomato-cilantro salsa.
When TV megachef Jamie Oliver moved from London to the English countryside a few years ago, the outspoken advocate of local, in-season ingredients decided to go one step further: He became his own farmer. “I didn’t know what I was doing that first year,” he says. “I just bought some Italian seed packets and chucked them into the groun. But 70 percent of the stuff grew and ripened, and I ate it. And it was bloody great.” His farm now also supplies his father’s nearby restaurant. Oliver’s garden is the star of his latest cookbook and Food Network program, Jamie at Home, which showcase his favorite homegrown meals, including a citrusy roasted-carrot salad and a low-fat rice pudding swirled with a quick strawberry jam. “I’ve always cooked seasonally, but when you grow your own food, you realize how much gets thrown away,” Oliver says. “I’ve learned to use everything. Plus, beet greens are 10 times as interesting as spinach.” All this makes Oliver believe that the future will be filled with gardener-cooks. “Gardening is geeky—completely geeky—but if you love food, growing it yourself is the way to move forward.”