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January 18, 2013

the wartime kitchen and garden.

Taking viewers back to the days when Hitler’s U-boats patrolled the Atlantic and imported foods were scarce, this series looks at how World War II affected those left behind in Britain who had to fend for themselves. In a bid to get around rationing, people who had never gardened before started to grow their own fruit and vegetables, and learned to enjoy fare such as spam and nettle soup.

This series includes personal memories from presenters Ruth Mott and Harry Dodson, as well as tales and anecdotes from the many people who remember wartime cookery and gardening.


We begin during the 'phoney war', as flowers are cleared out to make room for vegetables and the larder is filled. Plus help is on hand from a land girl and an evacuee.

Rationing began in January 1940 and quickly encouraged 'creative' cooking, so Ruth rustles up breast of lamb in egg and breadcrumbs. Meanwhile, Harry gets to work building some giant compost heaps and shows his land girl, Annie, how to make glass cloches.

During the summer of 1940, cooks were donating their utensils for weapons manufacture and gardeners were 'digging for victory'. In this edition, Ruth makes a chocolate pudding with carrot as a sweetener. Plus find out more about the cardboard wedding cake.

Inspired by the 'pig clubs' which emerged from the ruins of a blitzed Britain, Ruth makes brawn from half a pig's head - not a task for the squeamish! Plus Harry uses an uncomfortable period backpack to spray his potato crop.

Focusing on austerity measures, Ruth asks Harry to buy a few tomatoes 'under the counter'. She also gets to work on making a mock banana using mashed parsnip.

Even when the tide of war began to turn in the allies' favour, there was no let-up in the domestic situation back home. Ruth bakes salt cod with boiled nettles, and Harry grows and cures tobacco.

By the time of D-day, Britain was into its fifth year of war, and keeping healthy had become a national preoccupation. In this edition, Ruth makes a 'Swiss breakfast' of oats, raw carrot, apple and raisins. Meanwhile, shrapnel shatters the glasshouse and damages Harry's tomato crop.

By 1945 there had been no improvement in the food situation, and the winter brought with it the worst fuel crisis of the war. Ruth saves on gas by using a steamer to make elderflower fritters, while Harry cultivates haricot beans and celebrates VE day.

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