Jane GriffithsJane’s Delicious Garden

If someone had told the wired twenty-something-year-old me that I would not only become an avid organic vegetable gardener, but also write a best selling book about it, I would have wanted to know what they were smoking from their garden. By the time I was 25, I had travelled down the mighty Congo River, been inside the crater of a live volcano, come eyeball to eyeball with a mountain gorilla and touched the glacier on the Mountains of the Moon. Me – a gardener? No way. But today I can’t imagine my life without a garden.

Jane Griffiths in her garden (1)I have been growing organic vegetables and herbs in my Johannesburg garden for more than 15 years. When I started I knew nothing about any kind of gardening. To this day I have never been on a gardening course or had any formal training. It all began in 1995 when I visited a friend in California. His garden was bursting with chillies and it was the first time I had seen red, yellow, purple, brown and orange chillies in such a huge variety of shapes, colours and sizes.Digital Camera


At that time in South Africa all one could find were little hot red ones. Jalapenos were hardly on the culinary radar yet. Although I knew nothing about gardening, I was so inspired by this rainbow vision that I collected seeds of every variety of chilli I could lay my hands on.

Chillies (3)Back home I removed a section of lawn, dug in some compost, scattered the seeds and sat back to watch my chillies grow. That summer I had about 20 varieties of chillies growing in my garden and quickly earned the nickname ‘Chilli Queen’.

Chillies (2)Faced with this abundance I couldn’t waste it and I started making pastes, powders and chutneys. Jane’s Hot Diggedy Chilli Jelly became so popular amongst my friends that once, after returning from a long overseas trip, a friend greeted me with “Oh good, you’re back – when are you making some chilli jelly?” So much for missing me!

I discovered I was hooked on the simple process of sowing a few seeds, watching them grow and then dealing with the harvest. So I dug up more lawn. The chillies were followed by tomatoes, lettuces, eggplant, herbs and more. I subscribed to magazines and bought books.

Jane's Delicious Garden (3)Every year I’d try something new. Soon I ran out of space and began experimenting with vertical structures and different methods of intensive gardening. I made a lot of mistakes – but over the years I have developed a method of growing vegetables that suits my busy lifestyle. I am a television producer and I don’t have the time to spend hours in my garden and I only have a gardener who comes once a week.

Digital CameraSo I have worked out the quickest and most practical methods that maximise both my space and the amount of time I have to spend in my garden. Today my vegetable garden is about 60 square metres and is my favourite and most rewarding part of my garden. In late 2007, a friend approached me for some help in starting his organic vegetable garden. After spending time helping him, I realised two things: one; over the years I had gathered a vast store of knowledge on how to grow organic vegetables, and two; I needed to share this information as there was a lack of information for South Africans on this topic.

Digital CameraBeing a TV producer, it started as a script for a DVD, but when I quickly reached 20,000 words, I realised I was writing a book. After I reached 80,000 words I contacted publishers and within three days I had a publishing contract. Sixteen months after I began, Jane’s Delicious Garden was launched. Within two weeks it had hit the best seller list. Today it is the best selling gardening book in South Africa and has led to a vegetable gardening explosion. It has been an incredibly rewarding journey – to know that my small urban garden has inspired so many people to start growing their own food.

To see more of my garden visit my website Jane’s Delicious Garden

Chilli Jelly step by step (4)Hot Diggedy Chilli Jelly Recipe

2 red bell peppers
10 red jalapeno chillies
1½ cups white vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon pips
6 cups sugar
¹/³ cup lemon juice

Chilli Jelly step by step (1)

Cut the peppers into quarters and remove the white inner ribs. Purée the chillies and peppers in a food processor. Combine the purée and vinegar in a large pot and bring to the boil. Boil rapidly for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. (Be warned: the steam is pungent and it will make your eyes sting and the whole house pong of vinegar and chillies.)


Chilli Jelly step by step (2)Tie the lemon pips in a muslin bag, or put them inside a tea strainer that closes, and add them to the pot. (The lemon pips contain plenty of pectin – the stuff that makes jelly gel.) Now add the sugar and lemon juice, stirring well until the sugar has completely dissolved.

Chilli Jelly step by step (3)


Bring back to the boil and cook until it wrinkles when dropped onto a cold saucer. Pour the jelly into sterilised bottles and seal. My favourite way of eating chilli jelly is with Philadelphia cream cheese spread onto hot croissants. Try it!

Hot Diggedy Chilli Jelly



All you have to do is leave a comment during the week Feb 4-10, 2013 to go into the draw!

Feb 11 – Congratulations to commenter #12, Phileppa, who wins a copy of Jane’s book.


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Jane Griffiths

About Jane Griffiths

Jane Griffiths is a television producer, writer, artist and traveller who has been growing organic vegetables and herbs in her Johannesburg garden for more than fifteen years. Her best-selling book Jane's Delicious Garden led to a vegetable revolution in South Africa, with thousands of home growers following in her green footsteps. This was followed by Jane's Delicious Kitchen, a collection of delicious recipes for cooking and preserving home grown produce. Her newly released Jane's Delicious Herbs provides a wealth of information on growing and using nearly eighty different herbs, whether it is for cooking, healing, cleaning, pet care or simply feeling good. Visit her website at Jane's Delicious Garden and follow her on Twitter @DeliciousJane

22 thoughts on “Jane’s Delicious Garden

  1. Hot diggedy indeed :). Nice post, Jane. And good to hear the highveld is nowadays home to hot cuisine. T’was a bit bland when I was last there (but you don’t want to know how long ago that was…). Hot chillies are de rigueur here in Bali (and even more so in Lombok next door: the island’s name is also the Bahasa Indonesia word for chilli).

    And it’s great to see the Garden Drum tapping out so many different rhythms. Keep drumming!

  2. I have a daughter, who has also travelled widely and now lives in Vancouver, Canada and is, like you, an avid organic vegetable (and flower) gardener. I am forwarding this article to her as I know she is going to be facinated. Her husband does most of their cooking and will be trying your Hot Diggedy Chilli Jelly Recipe for sure. Thank you, Jane

  3. It is so encouraging to read blogs such as yours Jane, which explain how folks came to be so addicted to their garden. Three years ago we knocked down our old house (after building a new one) and had a huge vacant block of land. From there on in, my veg patch just grew and grew – with lots of help from my other half. We are both retired, so came into this vegetable game at a late age (always too busy with full time work, study and children to have time for gardening before) Now there is nothing I enjoy more than being out literally playing with the dirt as I call it. We have had some wonderful produce (and disasters I might add, with a wet wet summer in Dec 2011) and then in October 2012 a hailstorm wiped out many of our crops. However we are not going to let that stop us. I have also taken up making jams, curds, marmalades and even HOT chilli jam, from our produce. Our retirement has turned into the most wonderful experience and even my previously non gardening husband insisted on his own patch last season to plant out a potato crop. Gardening really is infectious and brings us so much pleasure as well as saving us money with all the beautiful produce we eat and share.

  4. I always find it really interesting to read how people came to gardening, whether they grew up with it, following their parents or grandparents around, or whether for some reason they came to it later in life. An inspiring story Jane, and beautiful photos of your productive garden, thank you.

  5. I am a new gardener this year, having wrestled some gardening space from my husbands dedicated “garden -railway land”…I am holding on tight and so far have managed to have something growing or producing since I started last April, despite the lament “hurry up with that land as I am going to need it to extend my railway….” I would love to win your book as I am also a novice and just winging it with surprising wins and losses in the vegetable stakes.

  6. Jane! I just read this post and got super duper excited. I am a massive fan of food (and vegetables – I have been vegetarian for 7 years) and I cannot wait to try your recipe. Also, I am looking to start growing veggies but am a little bit scared and don’t know where to start. It’s good to know that you came to it with nothing but a desire to do it! Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  7. hi

    I am new to the drum and find the stories of different gardeners’ journeys fascinating. It’s great to read about people who have started with so little skills and through their interest have gone from strength to strength. can’t wait to give the Chilli jam a try!!!

  8. Hello Jane,What a wonderfully inspiring story…. 🙂 I am new to “blogging” and to Garden Drum but your story is just amazing!!..I have gardened for many years and just LOVE every part of it including my vegy patches… 🙂 My journey with gardening started when my husband became chronically ill almost twenty years ago… 🙁 hence a need for “clean” food and what better way than to grow your own…luckily I love to garden and cook so find it an absolute pleasure and it’s also my sanity through tough times 🙁 …Through hit and miss…reading… Tv Gardening shows and gardening groups etc….. I have learned a lot but still have much to learn and enjoy learning from others like yourself…Ironiclly my husband has a great love for South Africa and collects as many books as he can…we also grow Proteas and Leucodendrons which we both adore and so do many who we give the magnificent blooms to 🙂 ….I look forward to reading more of your Blogs 🙂

  9. It just goes to show that gardening success is about having a go, being open to new ideas, and persistence. Practical knowledge learnt ‘hands on’ is often best, and second best would surely be via other people’s know how. Well done Jane and Garden Drum for sharing your story.

  10. Thank you for your wonderful inspiration and am looking forward to trying out your chilli jelly. Thanks to you I now have butternut and pumpkins taking over the lawn.

  11. Hi Jane, Thanks for your delightful and inspiring post which I’ve passed on to facebook friends. I live in Australia, Goulburn in country NSW, and have been trying to grow vegetables for the past 3 years.. not successfully so I’m commencing a ‘sustainable gardening’ course this very weekend. Allotments behind a local church have been given to community minded people who will create vegetable gardens to give vegetables to those in need. Your book would be great to get ideas from and to follow; I will certainly ask my local library to see if they can get ‘Jane’s Delicious Garden’ in.

  12. I feel so lucky to meet Jane during her travel to Turkey. I was so influenced by her charisma. I am following her website and facebook since, which she gives useful tips and shares her inspiring ideas. I am just a beginner in gardening (actually i grow things in my balcony at the moment) but educating myself by her experience and knowledge. Thank you very much Jane.

  13. Hello Banu! What a surprise to meet you here! I have such wonderful memories of a moonlit dinner in Fetiye harbour for my birthday. I will be blogging about my travels so keep an eye on this page!

  14. Loved reading this post. The gradual acquisition of gardening knowledge, putting it into practice, learning from it and then being willing to share it with others inspires all of us. It is a lifelong learning experience but oh so good!

  15. Jane It is articles like this that enable world wide garden lovers to share our experiences and learn from each other .
    I enjoyed your article and agree that we all learn something about a particular plant or vecetable every time we grow .

    regards Tom

  16. We just bought a house 6 months ago and the first thing I did was dig a veggie patch! I love heading out in the morning before work and seeing what’s popped up over night. Next is to figure out a netting system to keep the birds off the cherries and apricots!

  17. Thanks for your blog Jane, I relate to your love of gardens and all things organic yet being so time poor. I am inspired by how productive you are with the time you have…my garden is ever growing but i have been reluctant to go forward with edibles seeing them as requiring more work than I have time for..I throw a few vegetables and herbs amongst my flowers and shrubs and let them re seed where they feel is best..you have inspired me to try some more things like chilli..your recipe sounds too good not to try!

  18. I love your chilli jam. Tasted it in a small village Laigi , Taiwan when I was there for a wedding in 2014. Got the recipe from there.

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