10 tips for facilitating community groups

By Manuela de los Rios, Garden Mentor at the MAXwell Community Garden

I’ve been working for and as part of community groups for over 20 years. I’ve learnt very much on my way from so many different people. I’ve had some successes and of course, I have made plenty of mistakes. I’d like to share with you the first 10 ideas/tips that came to mind when I reflected on my role as a facilitator or activist within a community group (more resources for community projects here):

1. Different people join community projects with different expectations and needs – always listen more than you speak

2. Provide a safe and steady framework to start off – clear rules for all

3. Don’t assume knowledge or show off with jargon, find out what others DO know and CAN do, everyone has talents and skills

4. Use stories, facts and as many sensory interactions with nature as possible. Keep it hands ON!

5. Find a shared purpose that you can all celebrate, enjoy, be proud of and share. Focus on what keeps you and others coming back

6. Don’t be too ambitious, try not to be and look stressed or overwhelmed and keep sacred time for having fun and making mistakes

7. Marvel together, create together, grow as human beings together

8. Nurture each other, give your time generously, ask (and listen) to people when you ask how they are feeling

9. Link up with other community groups, get the bigger picture, be part of making a bigger difference

10. Keep track of your successes, what you have learned, new skill and knowledge, your attitude. Be kind to yourself and stay rooted and connected to your own aims and desires.

Harvest box #7 – Recipe ideas

Lots of different kind of legumes in this box: Yellow beans, runner beans, broad beans and peas. The yellow beans have been grown by the kids and harvested by Jessica! Well done.

For the first time this year, your harvest box has yellow beans! Nice recipe with dill and parsley: yellow beans with dill and parsle

The curry plant flowers smell stronger than they taste. Also you can cook with it used as a herb, it is generally used in tea and for skin treatment.

Lavender has so many properties and can be use din many ways: dried and put in your cupboard, as a tea, made into an infused oil, and more!

Your side salad is going to be colourful and crunchy: get your rocket and lettuce, add some petal of edible flowers, and chives flower for an amazing garlicky taste. Don’t forget your tiny tomato!

If your radishes are bolting, you can still collect the seed pods to eat raw or to pickle.

Added to a cold drink, a tea or made into a pesto, Mint offer many options. If you want to try something new, make some chocolate dipped mint leaves!

If you have some eggs in your friend, enjoy an omelette with runner beans and a side salad.

Still with a few eggs, get your broad beans and peas and turn them into a lovely Shakshuka

We had lots of currants this year and they look huge! Hope you will enjoy this Fruit slice recipe (also know as Fly cemetery).

We have seen many ways of using your edible flowers: In salad, in biscuits, in muffins. Did you know you can also crystallise them?

Quick ratatouille and no bake dessert in jar – Everyone’s kitchen

On the Menu this week

Quick ratatouille served with rice
No bake dessert in a jar

We had an indoor cooking session due to the weather. But we still managed to wander in the garden for harvesting!

For the ratatouille: fennel leaves, pepper, courgette, basil, bay leaves, garlic, oregano, parsley
For the dessert: raspberry, red currant, rhubarb, blueberry

Quick ratatouille

Ingredients (serving 6-8)
1 tablespoon olive oil (use water to saute to make oil-free)
1 large onion , diced
4 cloves garlic , chopped finely
1 large eggplant / aubergine , diced into ¾ inch pieces
2 large zucchini , diced into ¾ inch pieces
2 large bell peppers , deseeded & cut into ¾ inch pieces
900g / 6 cups /about 8 large fresh tomatoes , diced into chunky pieces
Handful of fennel leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp teaspoon dried rosemary or 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
5 bay leaves
1 jar black olive
Parsley for serving
Serve with rice

Place a large pan that holds at least 5 to 6 quarts/litres, over medium heat and add the olive oil. Feel free to add more olive oil if you like
(If you are wanting to keep the recipe oil-free use a little water to saute instead).
When hot, add the onions and cook for 7 to 8 minutes until translucent.
Add the garlic and continue cooking for another 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add all of the other ingredients, give it a good stir and allow to come to a steady simmer.
Cook for 15 to 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and the tomatoes have mostly broken down.
Remove the bay leaf before serving.
Sprinkle with parsley and serve with rice

No bake dessert in a jar (use jar from the black olives!)

Easy to create your own with what’s available in your kitchen.

3 layers:
Layer 1 it’s crunchy: broken digestive, oat or broken biscoffi biscuits
Middle layer, it’s moisture: mashed bananas, compote, yogurt
Last but lost least, the Fruits: raspberry, red currants, blueberries, mango, …
Option: cinnamon powder, vanilla extract.
Not sweet enough? Maple syrup, honey

Example 1: digestive, apple/rhubarb compote, raspberries
Example 2: biscoffi biscuits, mashed bananas, red currants
Example 3: oat, yogurt, maple syrup, blueberries

We had broken ginger biscuits or speculoos with apple and rhubarb compote, yogurt, banana and berries!

Thank you Marnie for the photos!

Harvest box #6- recipe ideas

What a pleasure to have The Beechgrove garden filming at the Centre today! Novelty in your boxes: gooseberry and potatoes!

  • For a change, use your rocket to make a yummy pesto to spread on a bruschetta or on your pasta!
  • Try the tomato basil Gnocchi soup! Use the sweet basil, potato and enjoy this unusual meal. Don’t forget to add you radish leaves in it :).
  • If you have already made gnocchi, roast the potatoes with your rosemary!
  • A fresh salad with lettuce, some of your rocket if you haven’t used it all for the pesto, tomatoes, the small broad beans and radishes. Always add colours with your edible flowers.
  • You can included your rhubarb in a sweet and sour recipe: Pork chops with rhubarb & grains
  • Keep your feverfew near by in case you have a migraine! Boil some water, brew it and enjoy
  • Fennel brings an anise taste to all your dishes: sprinkled on a salad, roasted with your fish, brewed in a lovely cup of tea!
  • Treat yourself with some redcurrant muffins!!
  • You can eat your gooseberries as it is or try a Gooseberry and custard pie recipe
  • After using your rosemary and sage for roasting your potatoes you might be left with a surplus. Try a homemade cordial for a refreshing drink.
  • Chives will make a great supplement to a vinaigrette!
  • Throw some radish seed pods into your salad, stir fry, or just eat as a snack!
  • Calendula, borage and cornflower will bring great colours to your meals, or drink. Only use the petals. If you fancy something a bit different, enjoy a granola with lemon yogurt and edibles flowers.

Flowers shouldn’t be eaten if you are pregnant, young child, vulnerable or allergic to it. We don’t use chemicals, so you might find some intruders in your harvest box! Wash your vegetables and flowers before eating them.

Roasted vegetables, pilau rice, bread and muffins! A feast for Everyone’s kitchen

Some many things to harvest and to cook today for the Chefs of everyone’s kitchen! Farzana made her amazing Chickpea pilau rice and explained us how to turn a regular rice into a flavoured meal.

We also had the help of 2 new chefs: Seb and Victoria!

Roasted vegetables served with Farzana pilau rice
Side salad
Homemade soda bread

Banana and dried fruit muffins

Harvest of the day
Side salad: Tomatoes, lettuce, rocket, beans, radish, cucumber
Roasted vegetables: Potato, coriander, thyme, rosemary, lemon, carrots, chives

Roasted vegetables
Vegetables: carrot, potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, lemon, garlic, courgette, onions
Seasoning: rosemary, thyme, salt and pepper

Heat oven at 180C
Chop veggies: cut veggies into pieces about the same size, place on a rimmed baking sheet.
Toss with oil and seasoning: Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with Italian seasoning, garlic, salt and pepper then toss.

Spread across the baking sheet and roast for 30 min. Mix half way.

Soda bread
Ingredients (1small loaf)
170g/6oz wholemeal flour
170g/6oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
½ tsp salt
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
290ml/10fl oz yogurt

Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6.

Tip the flours, salt and bicarbonate of soda into a large bowl and stir. Make a well in the centre and pour in the buttermilk, mixing quickly with a large fork to form a soft dough. (Depending upon the absorbency of the flour, you may need to add a little milk if the dough seems too stiff but it should not be too wet or sticky.)

Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead briefly. Form into a round and flatten the dough slightly before placing on a lightly floured baking sheet.

Cut a cross on the top and bake for about 30 minutes or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

Thank you to Lisa, our Youth Worker, for the idea!

The chickpea pilau rice was amazing and served with Raita. Farzana’s tip is it the harvest your herbs (mint, coriander, parsley, …), to chop them and freeze them in ice cube trays! So when you need herbs for your raita, it’s ready! 🙂

Banana and dried fruits muffins

Ingredients ( 8 cupcakes)
2 large bananas (about 225g), blackened and peeled
50ml vegetable or sunflower oil
65g light brown sugar
150g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
50g dried fruit and seed mix
2 tbsp oats
2 tbsp mixed seeds

Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Mash the bananas in a medium bowl with a fork, then mix in the oil and sugar until combined.
Add the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and dried fruit and seed mix. Mix until well combined.
Line a cupcake tray with 10-12 cupcake cases (the amount you need will depend on how big the bananas are) and fill them ¾ full of the mixture. Sprinkle with the oats and mixed seeds.
Bake for 25 mins, or until a skewer inserted into the middle of a muffin comes out clean. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Photo credit: Ula, Marnie, Fiona !

Harvest box #5 – recipe ideas

Harvest box is back this week with some novelties!

  • Try a detox smoothie with your coriander and kale! Don’t forget to add your radish leaves, it is never too green!
  • For your salad of the day, you have some lettuce, rocket and rocket flowers. Look how the flowers are delicate! They look like wings! Use the chives to make a Fresh chives/spring onion vinaigrette. Tips: Add half a tsp of mustard in your homemade dressing to bring more flavour.
  • The broad beans can be added to your salad, and you can even make Broad beans pod fritters if you don’t like wasting food!
  • Scented geranium is half hardy annual with pretty flower and incredible scent! You dry the leaves and make scented sachets to use in your cupboard or as tea. It is also possible to use in cold drink such as lemonade or in cakes! Possibilities are endless!
  • Talking about treating yourself, raspberries leaves is known to be the woman’s herb. Raspberry leaves tea doesn’t have much flavour so you can add some lemon, honey of scented geranium to it!
  • The medicinal herb this week, is St John wort. The flowers are like yellow little stars! It can be used to release pain of bruise and bumps but make infused oil.
  • For the sage you have so many options! Why not trying a sage flavoured butter or add sage in your tomato sauce when making pasta dish or pizza.
  • Tomatillo is a an unusual vegetables with its green husk and green colour! These tomatillos are unripe (soon we will have ripe ones!!) but you can still cooking with them: try the tomatillo sauce! Note: tomatoes and tomatillos do not have the same flavour.
  • Harvest of the day for the berries with great little helper (see pictures below): black currant, wild strawberries, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries if you are lucky!

Flowers shouldn’t be eaten if you are pregnant, young child, vulnerable or allergic to it. We don’t use chemicals, so you might find some intruders in your harvest box! Wash your vegetables and flowers before eating them.

Sweet potato and carrot fritters and chocolate cornflakes – Everyone’s kitchen


Savoury fritters served with side salad

Chocolate cornflake cakes served with red berries

Harvest of the day

  • For the salad: Lettuce, rocket, radish, radish sees pods, tomatoes, calendula, cornflower, borage
  • For the fritters: carrots, chives, parsley, coriander
  • Desserts: raspberries, strawberries

Savoury fritters


  • 2 medium (approx. 220g) Carrots, peeled and grated
  • 1 medium (approx. 265g) Sweet Potato, peeled and grated
  • 1 cup (125g) Cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup (70g) Plain Wholemeal Flour
  • 1 Spring onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp Chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 Eggs, lightly beaten


Add the grated carrot, sweet potato, cheese, spring onion, parsley and wholemeal flour into a large mixing bowl and stir until combined. 

Add the eggs and mix well.

Spray waffle machine with oil (if needed) and heat to a medium setting (if it has settings.)

Place 2/3 – 1 cup of the mixture in the centre of the waffle machine and spread a little to the sides. Close and cook for approx. 5 mins, until browned, crispy and cooked through in the centre. Remove from waffle machine and place on a wire rack. 

Repeat until all the mixture has been used up.

Chocolate cornflake cakes served with red berries 


  • 50g butter
  • 100g dark chocolate, broken into chunks
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 100g cornflakes


Weigh out the ingredients. Older children can do this by themselves with supervision and little ones can help to pour or spoon ingredients into the weighing scales. Put 50g butter, 100g milk or dark chocolate, broken into chunks and 3 tbsp golden syrup in a saucepan or microwavable bowl. Put 100g cornflakes in another large bowl.

Melt the weighed butter, chocolate and golden syrup in the saucepan over a low heat or briefly in the microwave. Allow to cool a little before pouring over the cornflakes.

Stir the ingredients together gently using a wooden spoon. Spoon the mixture into 12 cupcake cases arranged on a muffin tray (or baking sheet, if you don’t have one). Grown ups will need to do this for younger children or simply arrange on a tray and let the mess happen. Put in the fridge to set.

Sweet potato burger with carrot top pesto and fruit salad! – Everyone’s kitchen

We had so much to harvest today, it was great!

  • Berries for the fruit salad: black and red currants, strawberries, wild strawberries and raspberries
  • For the side salad: cucumber, tomatoes, radishes, lettuce
  • For the burger: coriander
  • For the pesto: carrot top, radish leaves, sweet basil
  • And for the first time, we harvested a tomatillo! Unusual and taste for sure!

Sweet potato burgers


2 small sweet potatoes, about 500g
500g potatoes
4 piquillo peppers
3 tbsp coriander, chopped
140g breadcrumbs + for coating
1 carrot, coarsely grated
25g savoury seed mix
3 tbsp vegetable oil
10 burger buns

Peel sweet potato and the potatoes. Cut them into chunks and boil until just tender. Drain well and mash.
Chop the piquillo pepper and add to the mashed potato with the coriander, seasoning well. Stir in the breadcrumbs, carrot and the seeds to make a soft dough. Mix well and then shape into 10 burgers.
Then coat each burger.
Heat the oil in a frying pan. Fry the burgers 2-3 at a time, for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden.

Carrot top pesto

For the pesto we had a recipe and … we didn’t follow it! We had lots of radish and carrot tops left so we thought it would be a shame not to use them!


Salt and pepper to taste
2 hands full of carrot top (tough stems removed)
2 hands full of radish leaves
1 large clove garlic, roughly chopped
1 hand full of basil
2 tbsp mixed seeds
1 tbsp cheddar (or other cheese)
Olive oil will depend on the texture you want

After washing all your greens, put all the ingredients in a food processor. While the food processor is running, slowly pour in the olive oil in a steady stream.

And dessert!

Big thank you everyone, especially Marnie and Ula for being the photographers!

Harvest box #4 – Recipe ideas

Lots of new things in this week ! Red and black currants, celery flowers, sweet basil, radish leaves and carrots! You will also find an indoor plant: Swedish Ivy (not edible!)

  • Mixed salad leaves & Nasturtium leaves, with broad beans and peas! Perfect for a fresh salad with some cushiness. Did you know ? You can even make broad bean pod fritter. No waste at all! don’t forget to grate your tiny carrots to add some colours. Use the leaves in soup, pesto or even sauteed.

  • For dessert, you can have your currants and strawberries on their own or maybe maybe small tarts using your chocolate mint as well?

  • Nasturtium, coriander and celery flowers are “savoury” they will be great on your salad or used in savoury waffles for example!

  • For your cornflower, calendula and alyssum, why not trying this shortbread recipe with pressed edible flowers?

  • Yarrow, fennel and feverfew are your medicinal herbs of the week. Yarrow can be used dry or fresh and is know for restoring the skin, reducing fever and cramps. Fennel is also good for the skin, to reduce anaemia and it smells amazing! Finally Feverfew is your best friend if you have headache.

  • Herb of the week is sage (purple or variegated). You can have it as a tea, fried or crispy, added to a soup or roasted mushroom, … So many possibilities!

  • We didn’t prick the radishes on time and we ended up with leaves only. Not a problem, radish leaves are very good added to your soup or made as a pesto. If you are not too sure about the taste, add some sweet basil in it as well.

Flowers shouldn’t be eaten if you are pregnant, young child, vulnerable or allergic to it. We don’t use chemicals, so you might find some intruders in your harvest box! Wash your vegetables and flowers before eating them.

Tomato soup and swirls, banana and rhubarb crumble – Everyone’s kitchen

Another lovely cooking group in the garden today with a lot of harvest done!

Harvest of the day

For the side salad; different type of lettuces, rocket, parsley, radishes, nasturtium leaves

For the soup: celery, bay leaves

For the Swirl: thyme


Tomato soup with tomato swirls and side salad

Rhubarb and banana crumble

Tomato soup with tomato swirls

Serves 8


  • 1.5kg ripe tomatoes
  • 2  onions
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 squirts of tomato purée (about 2 tsp)
  • a good pinch of sugar
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 litres vegetable stock (3-4 stock cubes)


Cut each tomato into quarters and slice off any hard cores. Peel onions and carrots and chop them into small pieces. Chop celery sticks roughly the same size.

Add olive oil to a saucepan on medium heat and toss your vegetables (but tomatoes). Cook for 10 minutes and make sure they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Add the tomato puree, stir and shoot the tomatoes in, sprinkle in a good pinch of sugar and grind in a little black pepper. Tear bay leaves into a few pieces and throw them into the pan. Stir to mix everything together, put the lid on the pan and let the tomatoes stew over a low heat for 10 minutes.

Slowly pour in vegetable stock, stirring at the same time to mix it with the vegetables. Cook gently for 25 minutes, stirring a couple of times. At the end of cooking the tomatoes will have broken down and be very slushy looking.

Once cooked, fish out the pieces of bay leaf and throw them away. Blend everything and serve with some parsley and grated cheese.

No waste! We have used vegetables chopped by the Garden Club yesterday and radish leaves.

Banana and rhubarb crumble

Serves 4

  • 500g/1lb of rhubarb
  • 30g stem ginger (or a sprinkling of ginger spice)
  • 75g sugar
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 125g butter
  • 190g plain flour
  • 125g brown sugar
  • Generous handful of oats


Heat oven to 200C. Wash and chop the rhubarb into 2cm (1/2 inch) lengths and place in hot pan, add sugar and ginger (if using) and cook through until just done, but keeping its shape.

Crumb together the butter and flour; add the sugar, oats and seeds, until resembles a crumble mix.

Place rhubarb in oven-proof dish, slice banana over the top.

Cover with crumble mix.

Put in oven and cook for about half an hour, until crumble is nicely browned on top.

Thanks everyone for joining!

As usual, leftovers are taken home to share with the loved ones or to treat yourself! 🙂