Gut health, Green thumbs and Gardening

Please introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your background.

Hey there, wonderful people, I'm Amber. I hail from the northern reaches of New Zealand's North Island, where I grew up on a sprawling 400-acre organic homestead and heritage seed-saving nursery.

I spent my childhood eating and cooking from my mum's kitchen garden, riding horses up the mountains, getting muddy and dirty in stormy weather in our rivers and baking up a storm using the seasonal fruit from our orchards.

Food has been my lifelong love affair. In my early twenties, I embarked on a globetrotting adventure, working in esteemed restaurants and cafes across the world. I've had the privilege of cooking for some of the planet's most illustrious personalities as a private chef and spent over a decade as one of London's top food stylists.

Alongside these culinary escapades, I've penned four internationally acclaimed cookbooks. However, in 2016, my journey took a different turn when I returned to New Zealand and delved into the world of fermentation. Struggling with a gut-related autoimmune condition, I turned to food and ferments for healing. Their success in helping my healing process inspired me to transform my passion for crafting and enjoying these flavourful creations into a thriving business.

From humble beginnings at my kitchen table, I nurtured this venture into a supplier for retailers and supermarkets across New Zealand. Though I bid farewell to that chapter in late 2022, the journey from kitchen experiments to nationwide distribution remains one of my proudest achievements.

As a gardening enthusiast, can you run us through some of the main reasons we should get into growing our food?

I believe that being connected to our food is one of the most important aspects of life. When we have a connection to our food, whether through growing it ourselves or understanding its origins, we naturally develop a deeper care for the entire food chain. We become more mindful of how it's grown, farmed, harvested, and prepared, leading us to make better decisions for our health. When we prioritise our well-being, it ripples out to our families and communities, creating a positive generational impact and serving as the foundation for a healthy culture.

Even cultivating a small amount of food, such as herbs and greens, can have a significant effect. Additionally, there's a scientifically proven connection between gardening and mental health. Spending time in nature and tending to a garden has been shown to positively influence our well-being. Gardening can feel like free therapy, yielding not only delicious results but also enhancing our sense of fulfillment and happiness.

Growing and nurturing plants in our own garden is immensely rewarding and satisfying. It boosts our happiness hormones and enhances our vitality. Personally, at the very least, I always make sure to grow my own herbs and greens. As someone who uses a lot of herbs in cooking, having them readily available in my garden enhances my cooking significantly.

What's your advice for any novice green thumbs interested in growing food?

Try starting with good-quality soil. I accidentally purchased a whole bunch of subsoil instead of topsoil, and it's been a challenge turning it into fertile soil that plants thrive in. For the first couple of years, my vegetables grown in that soil were not thriving at all. So, using high-quality topsoil from the outset will give you a significant advantage. Then, all you need are healthy, good-quality seeds or seedlings and ensure they receive sufficient sunlight and water, along with plenty of loving attention. I also set up a home worm farm, a hungry bin, to turn my kitchen scraps into fertiliser, this has also helped immensely in bringing life back to the soil.

Before returning to Aotearoa, you spent many years traveling the world. How do you compare the experience of growing plants and seeds here versus abroad?

In London, it's challenging to find space, so I mainly grew my own herbs. Occasionally, you can acquire an allotment in London, but the waitlist is years long. Here in New Zealand, we have much more space, so I transformed my lawn into a vegetable and flower garden. It's the best thing, I love it!

You’re known as an authority on gut health, what are your top three gut-loving ingredients you recommend incorporating into diets to help maintain a good microbiome?

Having dedicated years to researching gut health following my diagnosis with a gut-related autoimmune disease, I advocate for three key foods for gut healing and health:

1: Bone broth: Rich in collagen and amino acids, bone broth supports gut lining integrity and aids in digestion.

2: Fermented foods: Probiotic-rich ferments like sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir help populate the gut with beneficial bacteria, promoting a healthy microbiome.

3: Prebiotic foods: Foods high in prebiotic fibers, such as garlic, onions, and asparagus, nourish beneficial gut bacteria and support overall gut health.

To add to that, I would prioritise stress management. While nutritious foods play a crucial role, maintaining a regulated nervous system is equally vital for optimal gut healing. Persistent stress can hinder the effectiveness of even the most beneficial foods.

Along with your four incredible cookbooks, we’re also inspired by the delicious recipes you share on social media. Could you share a favourite, seasonally relevant recipe with us?

Sautéed Greens Two Ways

As the weather here in New Zealand gets cooler, these greens are a great way to cook up some warming goodness. If you can't find Collards or Cavolo Nero just use Kale of any kind.

Cooking Kale makes it much more nutritious and easy to digest, these warming greens are great alongside your favourite proteins or roasts.

Kale with Chilli, Fennel and Garlic

2 large handfuls of curly kale, stalks removed 1 large handful of cavolo nero, stalks removed 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed in a pestle and mortar 1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes 1/4 to 1/2 of a mild/medium fresh red chilli, thinly sliced, seeds removed 2 garlic cloves peeled and thinly sliced Olive oil sea salt freshly ground pepper

Start by washing your two types of kale, then set aside. In a large heavy based frying pan, over a medium heat, add a couple of glugs of olive oil, when the pan is warmed, add the spices, allow them to lightly sizzle for a minute then add the fresh chilli and garlic , cook for a further 30 seconds. Throw in the kale and stir with a pair of tongs, turning over the leaves. Cook until the leaves have gone a more vibrant green and they are thoroughly wilted and yet lightly cooked. This will only take 4 to 5 minutes max. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of water if the pan is to dry, but the oil and the residual water on the leaves combined with the heat of the pan should be enough to cook the kale. When the leaves are done, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and scoop onto a serving platter.

Serve right away.

Collards with Butter, Red Onion and Caramelised Lemon.

3 large handfuls of collards (or kale), chopped, roughly, no need to remove the middle stalks 1 large knob of butter 1 red onion, thinly sliced 1 lemon, halved 1 tsp honey sea salt

First of all wash your collards, drain and set aside. Place a large heavy based frying pan over a medium heat. When it is warmed, add the butter and let it sizzle and when nearly completely melted add the red onion and then cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until translucent and nicely sweet. Add the collards, squeeze over 1 half of the lemon, and using a pair of tongs, stir and turn the leaves for a few minutes until they are lovely and wilted and tender. You can place a lid over the top and let the leaves steam for a minute or two. When the leaves are tender and yet still a vibrant green, remove from the pan onto a warmed serving platter, then placing the pan back onto the heat and turn up to high, add the honey, then place the remaining lemon half cut side down into the sizzling honey. Cook until the face of the lemon is a lovely golden colour, a little charred, then take out with a pair of tongs and place onto the pile of collards and squeeze over when the lemon has cooled a little. Serve while still warm.

Lastly, we’d love to hear more about The Regeneration Summit which you are a co-founder of - what’s next for this venture?

The Regeneration Summit is an online event that occurs every few months, serving as a gathering point for visionaries, experts, and change-makers. We bring together incredible guests from around the globe to engage in conversations covering a wide array of topics, ranging from soil health and climate resilience to heritage seeds, food sovereignty, ecosystem medicine, and quantum health, among others. Our upcoming summit on April 7th promises to be exceptional, featuring six remarkable guests. We're excited to share their wealth of knowledge with our audience. Join us for an enlightening experience! You can purchase tickets through our website, its a full day, starting with breathwork, Qi Gong at Lunch time and talks in-between.

Any other exciting news coming up that you would like to share with us?

I have a new business launching later this year, stay tuned for that. You can follow along on the socials over at

Quick-fire Q’s

Name a scent that invokes a special memory for you.

I love woody earthy scents and citrus scents. Think vetiver, bergamot, fig, Amber and I love the scent in a forest after rain. It reminds me of all the magical moments of my childhood spent roaming the wild.

There was a perfumery in Melbourne I used to frequent in my early 20’s and I used to buy their Fig perfume, it was so divine and reminds me of all my amazing foodie adventures in that city during a happy wonderful time. Scent is so evocative.

A daily ritual you can’t live without?

My morning coffee.

What’s your favourite dish and where would you like to eat it?

Oh this is a tough one! I don't know if I actually have a favourite dish, it's more of a favourite style of eating. Freshly picked fruits and vegetables that have been grown really well just taste so incredible and you don't need to do anything complicated to them, just exceptionally high quality garden produce, cooked perfectly and simply, with a little fire and possibly some slow cooked lamb and rosemary involved and eaten outside on a warm summer's evening. All set out on a beautifully laid table, with amazing linen and ceramics and candle light, with a delicious organic wine with my closest loved ones. Somewhere near the coast in New Zealand or Spain. Perfection.

Imagery by Greta Kenyon