Fat and Smiling Cabbage Whites …

Photo 27-09-2011 16 20 46So at the last count there were 56 varieties of vegetables, 25 herbs and 28 different fruits, all growing in the walled garden.  And it seems that they are all ready at once!

Restoring and running your own walled kitchen garden is a very steep learning curve.  Yes, I know we should have sown lots of successions, and in fact we did, but the seeds that went in first just ground to a halt until the later planted seeds caught up, and then they all rushed to shoot out of the beds and crop like mad, as if to deliberately give the Kitchen team a Vegetable Challenge!

This year has been a resounding success, with the garden almost producing more fabulous fresh vegetables than the hotel can use.  We recently had a full week when we didn’t order a single carrot, spud or raspberry in, every single vegetable on every single plate leaving the pass, was picked in the walled garden.  That felt good.  We even managed to supply the Chefs with enough fresh Monmouthshire strawberries to serve 100 at lunch on the Friday.  Never mind low Food Miles, that lunch even had low Food Yards!  We were able to give away a few boxes of veg to some loyal customers in return for a donation to a local charity. It’s not exactly Riverford, but it was a great ‘feel good’ thing to do.

However, whilst it’s been gratifying to see the garden come on stream properly, the new fruit cages increase yields massively, and the test beds show great promise, it’s not all been completely plain sailing.  As part of our push on towards gaining certified Organic status we tried some companion planting of marigolds and nasturtiums to keep the bugs away from the vegetables, and it would be fair to say this has not been an unqualified success.  The caterpillars seem to enjoy the Cavelo Nero even more than the customers do, and I suspect they eat more of them too.  The only thing growing fat on the Hispis is the pesky Cabbage White butterflies!  We did however have a much better crop from the nasturtiums.  As some varieties are coming to the end, we are now clearing the beds for successions of root and winter vegetables, along with some planting for early spring harvesting.

Our first Walled Garden Open Day on 1st August saw well over 150 keen green-fingered types visit to see our stuttering progress.  The grass was stripy, the sun shone, all the vegetables were dutifully labelled, our Head Chef did cooking demonstrations, revealing some top tips from a high quality commercial kitchen and we had to turn people away from the restaurant at lunchtime.  We made vegetable based cocktails, purely medicinal obviously, gave garden tours and sold our own jam and chutneys.  A great day and we plan to do it again soon.  Suggestions that we join the National gardens Scheme were put down to too much sun and a great many cocktails.

As I write the Great Glasshouse is slowly taking shape.  It’s bigger than we thought, much bigger, but thoughts of grapes, melons and oranges hanging from the inside mean that the excitement is mounting.  It’s easily big enough to drive a tractor through, and would probably be big enough for a game of indoor touch rugby.  Planning for raised beds, the rain water harvesting tank and sprinkler system need to now be finalised.  By the next time you hear from me we may well have scored our first try …


Mike Morgan

Make the most of Autumn vegetables

P1000215To celebrate the beginning of October, our head chef, Mike Hendry provides some tips on how to make the most out of your garden during the season:  

Autumn is a lovely season to grow produce in the garden.  At Llansantffraed Court, we have a large restored Victorian walled garden, where we grow over 100 different varieties of vegetables, herbs and fruits. The best produce in season at the moment is beetroot, blackberries, wild mushrooms, butternut squash, pumpkins, carrots, parsnips and red cabbage.

When growing your own vegetables for the table, space can be at a premium, and its really important to utilise space well by planting fast growing salad types such as radish and lettuce in between rows of cabbages. Prior to sowing the seeds, create neutral ground by putting compost on top of damp, stone-free soil. Placing fine netting over the top of brassica vegetables, such as cauliflowers and sprouts, can protect them from caterpillars.

For culinary ideas, venison and garden beetroot complement each other very well. In addition butternut squash, seabass and artichokes are an ideal combination, and are fabulously comforting foods as the evenings draw in.

A simple but delicious dish is butternut squash crumble, perfect to share with the family:

Butternut squash crumble (serves 4) 

Ingredients

2 x butternut squash

100g of toasted pinenuts

Sage

Shallots

Garlic

200g of flour

100g of butter

20g of oatmeal

50g of Parmesan cheese

Equipment

1x tin foil

1 x ovenproof dish

1x wooden spoon

Method

  • Wrap butternut squash in tin foil
  • Roast butternut squash in oven at 180 degrees
  • Once soft, take butternut squash out of the tinfoil, cut them in half, take the seeds and flesh out
  • Discard seeds and skin and add 100g of toasted pinenuts to the flesh mix
  • Mix sage, shallots and garlic together with mixand put in ovenproof dish
  • Rub 200g and 100g of butter between fingers to make a crumble
  • Add 20g oatmeal and 50g Parmasan cheese to the mix
  • Put crumble mix on top of butternut squash flesh and leave in oven for 20 minutes at 180 degrees