Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

16 October 2024

World Food Day

Alessandro Vitale (Spicy Moustache)

“We were always connecting to the origin of food, how to process it, how to turn it into something delicious in the kitchen.”


“Did you know the best organic shop could be your backyard?” So starts one of Alessandro Vitale’s popular gardening and cooking videos that have quickly gained him a loyal following on Youtube and TikTok under the nickname Spicy Moustache.

With slick editing and out-of-the-box recipes that use every part of the produce he grows, Alessandro’s bite-sized videos are made to inspire busy city dwellers to get their hands dirty and show no space is too small to grow your own food.

“We started with a balcony,” recalls Alessandro, who now grows in an 8x5 backyard in east London that features prominently in his videos. The small space is part of his online success, he thinks, because it’s relatable. “The ways my girlfriend and I try to present it, it's all easy things that anyone could do at home.”

Growing up in Italy, Alessandro learned gardening from his grandfather. “I was always with him, watering the garden, and he was teaching me stuff. My grandma, she used to cook a lot, and I was always in the kitchen, stealing food and trying it. So we were always connecting to the origin of food, how to process it, how to turn it into something delicious in the kitchen.”

In the course of just 2 years, Alessandro and his girlfriend (who coined the name Spicy Moustache for his love of chillies) transformed a concrete-slabbed yard into a lush permaculture oasis where they apply no-dig and minimum-waste principles.

“Once a plant finished the produce, rather than digging it out, I leave the roots to be decomposed by the microorganisms already there.” Other organic waste gets made into fertilizer. “I constantly give back into the ecosystem.

Water management is key, because the space is so densely planted, he says. That includes rainwater harvesting – from their greenhouse roof into buckets – and vertical gardening – placing hanging pots above ground planters who catch spillover water.

“Another thing we do is mulching. So we place straw or other organic materials around the base of the plant, because it retains the moisture and reduces the evaporation of water.”

It’s all part of the sustainable principles he hopes new growers will find easy to apply thanks to his videos and a new beginner’s guide, Rebel Gardening.

His latest project is transforming an 110m2 allotment – a space you can rent cheaply from the city -- to show how much food you could grow there in a year.

But his advice to beginners is to start small. “At the end of the day, it doesn't matter how much you take home. It's actually about the time you spend with your hands in the soil, enjoying [it].”