I made a batch of these wooden veggie plant markers to order for my mum last year, inspired by a feature in a crafts magazine. My brief was dictated by the seeds Mum had ready to sow in her allotment and she loved the finished result. In fact, she said they were too precious to use on her allotment so now they’re at home in various plant pots in the living room. I used a six-colour pack of Sculpey SuperFlex Bake & Bend from John Lewis, but you can use whichever bake-able modelling clay you like – I loved Fimo as a kid. Admittedly, they are a bit fiddly, but if you love an arts and craft project as much as I do you’ll be in heaven making them.
You will need:
Modelling clay in primary colours, black and white (depending on which vegetables you’re going to model)
Wooden plant labels/markers
Very strong water resistant glue
Modelling tools (a sharp knife and something to roll out small pieces of clay will do)
1. Decide which vegetables you’re going to make and how many of each. I made 12 in total: carrots, lettuces, cabbages, beetroots, parsnips, green beans and peas in a pod.
2. Taking one vegetable at a time, mix your clay to make the necessary colours. This takes a bit of trial and error. I made:
Blue + yellow = green. Plus white or more blue to make darker or lighter green for leaves, shoots, peas, lettuces and cabbages.
Red + yellow = orange. For carrots.
White + yellow = beige. For parsnips. It only takes a small amount of yellow.
Red + blue + white = purple for the beetroots
3. When you’ve mixed the colours, shape your vegetables.
Cabbages: Roll a small ball of pale green for the centre and press on some very fine strings of white (Bake & Bend clay is very pliable so you don’t have to worry about it crumbling) to represent the layers. For the outer leaves, roll a couple more little balls, flatten them, add more fine bits of white and press them on underneath the original ball.
Lettuces: Follow the same instructions as the cabbages, but add lots more layers of leaves and use darker green the further out you go. As you add each leaf, fray and crimp the edges with a sharp knife to give that crinkly lettuce leaf effect.
Carrots: Roll out a length of orange clay and taper it at one end. Run a sharp knife in circles along the middle to give a carrot texture. For the shoots, roll out some very fine strings of green clay, chop them to roughly equal length and squeeze them together at one end. Prick a whole in the top of the carrot and squash the shoots in carefully. So that they don’t break off, lay the carrots down the shoots resting on a piece of folded up kitchen foil before (and while) you cook them.
Parsnips: Do the same as for the carrots, but make the parsnips thinner at the end and bend them a bit to make them more gnarled and parsnip-like. Make the green shoots shorter than the carrots.
Peas in a pod: Roll out a piece of green clay into roughly a tear drop shape. Roll five green peas, varying the size so they’re bigger in the middle, then place them in the pod and wrap up the sides, squeezing so they stay in place.
Green beans: Roll out a piece of dark green clay and cut out a long thin rectangle, twice as wide as you want your finished bean. Roll tiny little green ‘beans’ and space them at equal distance inside. Then wrap up the beans and press firmly along the length so the impression of the beans inside can be seen.
Beetroots: These were definitely the trickiest. Start by rolling a ball of purple then squash it down slightly to make the beetroot body. Roll a very fine string of purple and cut it into roughly 1cm lengths. For the leaves, press little bits of pale green clay into leaf shapes and fray the edges, then attach each one to a purple string. When they’re all made, squeeze them together and push into the top of the beetroot base, being careful not to squash or break any. As with the carrots, rest the shoots on a folded piece of kitchen foil for baking.
4. Bake the clay vegetable shapes according to the packet instructions – in this case, 130 °C for 15 minutes per 6 mm thickness. They should be completely hard when done, but make sure to check regularly during baking to make sure the delicate bits don’t burn.
5. Using water resistant glue, stick the clay vegetables to the top of the wooden plant markers and leave them to dry thoroughly before use – or before presenting them to your green-fingered friend.