Let me be clear from the outset, I am not a natural gardener and am unlikely to ever be described as ‘green fingered’. Composting guidance, gardening tips and self-sufficiency I will leave to others far more experienced than I.

On this journey, ingredients are the desired effect, gardening merely the cause.

My father was a talented and devoted gardener and however much his preference was for runner beans and carrots rather than assorted blooms, he grew them all with aplomb. I was distantly aware of the mounds of vegetables that he bore from garden to kitchen throughout the year, but occasional visits to my parent’s cottage were confined to more urbane matters. What wine to take, what nearby restaurants could be booked and what metropolitan abundance could I discharge upon their rural idyll? I took little notice of my father’s horticultural tasks and even less of the resultant soil encrusted bounty. A lost opportunity I periodically regret.

My own arts based education had led me to conclude that gardens were the extended expression of architecture. At university I wrote of great estates; Versailles, Hidcote, Villa Lante, Vaux-le-Vicomte or Lotusland, where pare-terre met topiary and gravel path led to walled garden. I observed but was rarely immersed. Direct engagement was implausible then, and I peered across at the horticultural labours of Gertrude Stein realising I was but a disconnected viewer. James Russell Lowell would have looked askance as my “blessed…horny hands of toil” were then kept strictly in the pockets of Italian linen trousers.

So later, as a wine importer, writing occasional features on both wine and food for a local newspaper, my editor thought it an amusing notion if I were to grow my own produce. I was asked to spend a year on gardening assignment growing a range of vegetables. I was then to record the disasters that he believed would inevitably follow. I guess he predicted entertaining chaos from the outset. I was less enamoured by his ideas, but unexpectedly curious.

Journalist and cartoonist Allen Saunders coined the phrase, later popularized by John Lennon, that “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans”. Thus began my acquaintance with raised bed gardening and vegetable cultivation.

It came, it went, and somewhere in the archive there languishes written evidence of that time. But a seed germinated, and not just below ground. My charge to plant, eat and record had been prompted by a desire to understand the process that I had formerly left to marketers. I knew how much I had briefly enjoyed shortening the food chain and at the same time perceived how distanced we had become from shaking the hand that feeds us. Watching seeds grow was not the only awakening. Amongst the research that surrounded my task that year, the maxim that struck a distinct chord came from author Michael Pollan in his book In Defense of Food (Allen Lane 2008). The first line of the first chapter read, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” Obvious and approximate as it was, it sent a call to arms amongst cosmopolitan readers way beyond fashionable diets and organic proselytising. Although some were initially perplexed by the subject matter in question, the book rocketed to no 1 in the New York Times bestseller list.

Suddenly we were no longer decrying allotments planted on roundabouts, hipster vertical gardens or bucolic emigrés, hippy-dippy granola fans or vegan outcasts. Dismissed sub-currents were beginning to join the mainstream. Discussions around food were at last encompassing matters of land use and water conservation, fishing practices and farm production. They centred on global food producers, processors, attendant distributors and their combined effects upon our diet, our health and our planet. A penny had finally dropped, and way beyond the food culturati.

Chefs like Alice Waters at Chez Panisse, or Ruth Rogers and Rosie Gray at The River Café, who having taken their inspiration from the southern Mediterranean, had long given vegetables a starring role. Michelin starred chefs around the globe started weighing in with reduced meat menus and quota led fish cuisine. Even foraged weeds had now become signature dishes at expensive and fashionable restaurants. Alain Ducasse, the most accredited Michelin starred chef in the world, with 33 at the last tally, opened a restaurant in Paris serving vegetables as the principal course. Long established and indigenous cuisines from across the globe, many with a rich culture of primary vegetable cooking, were now re-examined under the glare of dietary correctness, micro-climatic sensitivity, bio diversity and wellbeing.

Consternation greeted the ever growing fount of statistics coming from the gustatory grass roots of our Western culture.That we threw away an average of one in three bags of food purchased from supermarkets was no longer an alarmist headline, it was now percolating down to workaday comprehension. The resultant land waste is yet to be fully measured, but when we further incorporate the storage of discarded food in more and more landfill sites, we are approaching a Danse Macabre by continuing our present dietary patterns. Such wastage would be unimaginable to any other previous generation.

If we then consider that 3 kilos of grain are required to produce every 1 kilo of meat, and that most fish are likely to be dramatically diminished by the middle of the 21st century, vegetables were beginning to seem the only viable and sustainable option. With the provision of contemporary evidence indicating that 60% of deaths in the western world are now diet related, we discover a seemingly unparalleled lack of concern at almost every turn. That the planet has increasingly rare resources cannot have escaped anyone’s notice, that we must now consume more fairly and more mindfully, has yet to become commonplace. As an inexorably growing species, we must move towards a greener diet. We either choose it ourselves or it will doubtless be forced upon us.

My initial foray into horticulture was a trigger to further research, and what I found was not an exclusively disheartening outcome, so I have now set the task once more and installed a group of raised beds in which to grow some vegetables.There are many clear advantages to this method of gardening, a gravel surround dissuades snails and slugs from sharing your lunchtime salad, the wooden edges provide a welcome seat after rigorous weeding and the necessary replenishment each year of composted material from kitchen waste defines an eco-system all of its own. Above all, the containment of a raised bed offers a truncated vista across which to gaze, coupled with some hope of control. By the same logic, a flower pot could well provide a herb garden.

When it comes to horticulture, smaller areas increase focus.

The system itself is constructed of disused Belgian railway sleepers, salvaged from the first rail transport system in mainland Europe. The wood was gathered from a former empire in the Congo, almost certainly from a forest we would now regard as unsustainable. What service these sleepers must have given, encouragingly now set for quieter tasks. They are arranged as a group of 2.5 by 1.5 metre containers, the layout of which unashamably influenced by the early monastic gardens of French Benedictine monks. For a lapsed agnostic, a higher guidance is always welcome. The growing area was originally 22.5 square metres, but has now been extended to an additional plot for potatoes and beans. Thanks to a colleague, more at home with the ergonomics of horticulture than I, structures were designed so that beds can double up as a cloche, cold frame or fruit cage whenever required.

At present, soil preparation, seed selection and the gathering of a few remaining winter crops are uppermost in the early spring strategy. As the year advances, and fortune favours the project, my aim is to provide ingredients rather than produce, and to allow those same ingredients to prompt examination of nutritional orthodoxies. I will detail the decision of putting meat at the side of the plate and allowing vegetables to take centre stage. This is not a call to vegetarian apostasy, just a margin shift in percentage terms. Neither is it a call to abandon judicious shopping, be it super or farmer’s markets. I have no intention of removing lemons, chocolate, coffee beans or tea from my diet. Locally sourcing in the UK has its limits.

With a requirement for some meats to be hung for a month, game birds for a week, and fish served fresh from the sea, are we aware of how old many of the vegetables we purchase and consume really are? If the entire side order of assorted vegetables in a restaurant were to be a year old, as is more than feasible, would you be concerned? Does your leaf salad sound better on the menu when described as “arrested in a modified atmosphere” or would you prefer fresh rocket leaves without the nitrogen hit? How long does a vegetable retain nutrients once picked? Mere hours may be an uncomfortable answer.

The principal ambition from the outset is to allow the ingredients to pose questions of indigenous gastronomy from wherever in the world people have embraced a more realistic and less wasteful view of their food, particularly their vegetables. We have a myriad of available food cultures, formed and codified over time, which display a gathering of individual brilliance and group experience. I hope that what springs from our raised beds will be a starting point to mine this accumulated culinary history. We will also examine a sample of diverse global cooking procedures, as there is little point in carefully growing vegetables if they are to be unsympathetically treated once they reach the kitchen.

What grows must also provide delicious meals