Allegra Benitah read Law at Magdalene College, Cambridge, before qualifying and working as a Tax Solicitor at a Magic Circle Law Firm in London and Paris for five years. Upon the birth of her first child, Zekey (5), however, Allegra decided to step away from her high-flying legal career to focus completely on being a full time Mummy to Zekey and then Neroli (3).
Allegra soon realised the value of quality, hands on and tech-free parenting to her children. Having grown up in a tech-free house herself before even mobile phones were invented, Allegra had loved spending time with her own mother, Vanessa Feltz, without the invasion of screens, and particularly enjoyed reading stories and poetry, singing, admiring paintings at galleries and, her absolute favourite, gardening together. Allegra’s grandmother, Valerie, had bought her a small set of watercolour paints and a colouring book with pictures and the names of British flowers and Allegra had learned all about flowers while painting and then been shown how to plant the real flowers from seed by her grandmother and mother.
Allegra also spent time in East Cork in Ireland as a child during her school holidays and had been inspired by the beautiful Irish countryside. She also learned how to grow her own fruit and vegetables according to the seasons from friends at world-renowned Ballymaloe House. Allegra wanted her own children to experience the joys that she had known herself as a child and develop a respect for nature and the outdoors away from modern technology which Allegra noticed was already creeping into the lives of families around her.
Although limited by a small, mostly concrete city garden, Allegra began planting fruit, vegetables and flowers with her children in planters hanging on walls and fences. Allegra encouraged her children to put their wellies on, start digging in the soil and enjoy the outdoors. Allegra wanted to teach her children how to grow their own food from seed and look after plants from the time of planting until harvest. At the end of each season, Allegra made books for her children with stories and photographs about their planting journey that year so they could look back and feel proud of how much they and their plants had grown.
As Allegra’s children began pulling their own beetroot, parsnips and turnips from the soil, Allegra seized the opportunity to teach her children about healthy eating. Allegra devised simple, healthy recipes which she could make with her children using the fresh produce which they had grown themselves. Zekey’s heritage carrots made a scrumptious purple carrot cake and Neroli’s peas went into a delicious risotto served with nasturtium flowers.
Allegra quickly understood the benefits to her children of spending time with their Mummy outside in the garden, where they have been developing an appreciation of nature, and inside in the kitchen, where they have been learning about how to turn seasonal fruit and vegetables which they have grown themselves into quick, easy and healthy family meals. Allegra is providing inspiration and ideas to encourage other parents to take time, away from screens and devices, to enjoy back-to-basics fun in the garden and kitchen with their children. Allegra’s gardening tips and recipes will help to educate parents and children about the benefits to mental health, wellness and resilience of being outside in nature, growing your own food and cooking it for your family.