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90-year-old green-fingered guru creates a Manchester Menu as part of her winter advice for older people

Dena, who will be 90 in October, is a force of nature in more ways than one. Not only does she keep a an allotment that allows her to make weekly meals for up to 50 lunch club members a week, but she also has the energy to champion community care for city. This includes looking out for older people as well as helping former young offenders get back on their feet through her support and work on the allotment.

Dena, who is the chair of New Moston residents’ group NEPHRA, is prolific in her produce and grows so much fruit and veg that she can fill the group’s freezers for a year at time. Her message is simple: age is no barrier to eating well or being part of the community.

“There isn’t any fruit or veg that can’t be grown with a little time, effort and attention,” she says. “The worst thing older people can do is start to go down the ‘tea and toast’ route, because that doesn’t do anyone any good and it also leads to loneliness.”

Now, Dena, a former nurse, is offering her own version of a hearty soup, as part of a Manchester Menu this winter.  The key to the soup is using any vegetable available – apart from cabbage, which ‘just doesn’t work in soup’.

“The secret is not to be afraid,” she says. “Good eating doesn’t have to be hard work or complicated. This recipe means you can use any vegetable at all – as long as it doesn’t include cabbage. It can be adapted to include carbs and protein, plus a dash of Worcester Sauce.”