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The Scottish Kitchen Garden: 2015 in review

10 February 2016

Hello from The Scottish Kitchen Garden. Head Gardener Kerry here. I can’t quite believe we’re into February already. So I thought, before too much time passes, we should have a look back on 2015 and how The Scottish Kitchen Garden fared.

So, first things first. Let’s talk about ‘The Good’ before we look at (cue the ominous music) ‘The Bad’ and ‘The Ugly’ – although in my opinion there’s nothing ugly about our garden.

We had bumper crops of rhubarb last year from early spring to July, so lots of delicious rhubarb tarts and crumbles were put in the oven as a result.

The first forced pink stems looked a little extra-terrestrial as they emerged but I just love the rich pinky-reddish colour. It’s so warming and perfect for summer.

Our lovely Fairy Wood also yielded swathes of wild garlic and frothy elderflower.

In May we saw the the first cutting of our asparagus after patiently waiting for two seasons while the buried crowns grew strong. It’s so satisfying to slice through the tender stems and bundle the young spears with twine for the kitchen – much to the chef’s delight. But my goodness, whoever said that gardening is a waiting game was spot on.

We produced masses of scrumptious broadbeans as well. Our chefs uses the pinched out tips in salads, then the sweet, succulent young beans. Late in the season we saved some seeds too, drying them out in our greenhouse and bagging up for 2016.

From June to October we harvested brilliantly bright baby beets (bit of a tongue-twister there), sown in succession to keep our kitchen satisfied. A favourite was Chioggia, a pink, ringed variety that our chefs call candy beetroot. Very pretty and very tasty and almost look like strawberry and cream hard-boiled sweeties.

I was delighted to be sent off to Raymond Blanc’s Manoir Aux Quats Saisons in September, where I worked for a week in their beautiful organic garden. I had a lovely conversation with the man himself about trialling new (and old) vegetable varieties to try in the kitchen. I’m really excited to be implementing this approach in the Contini’s Kitchen Garden so watch this space for updates in the future.

In the Autumn our Ben Lomond blackcurrants yielded bunch upon bunch of plump black fruit and we were excited to collect our very first blueberry harvest.

In addition to our successes, we’ve also been very busy in other areas. We’ve built a fruit cage, put up a new shed, laid some paths and sent dozens of harvests of fruit, veg, herbs, salads (from our polytunnel) and flowers every week to our amazing kitchen teams.

In terms of the bad…we did have a few challenges last year, not least with the brilliantly unpredictable Scottish weather. Although we had relatively little rain, we also had very little sunshine all summer (hard to believe I know). This was followed by an autumn/winter deluge of wind and rain but, thankfully, hardly any frost.

The summer drought left our usually bountiful courgette plants dwindling and mildewed and the lack of sunshine slowed down ripening. However, on the upside, our edible flowers flourished, panicked into reproduction under all that stress.

As for the interminable rain – slugs loved it and the weeds. Mild and wet = disaster. No Jack Frost to tell them to stop growing and soil too wet to stand on. So here we are in February and still hoeing away. I’m hoping our cardboard mulch defeats the wee blighters this year!

And now to the ugly..

Our Horseradish, a personal favourite of mine and a battle I relish when dealing with the tangled, mandrake-like roots, growing in all directions. Although they’re long and entwined and a devil to remove from the soil, once conquered, the gnarled harvest I’m afraid to say looked pretty unappetizing and yes – ugly. But looks aside, I urge you to go plant some because those twisted roots pack a delicious peppery punch. Scrape off the dirt and grate some of their creamy flesh onto a salad.

So here we go again – another February and another year of adventure at The Scottish Kitchen Garden. I’m now off to tackle those weeds and sow last year’s broadbean seeds.

Watch out for more updates from me in the near future.

Happy gardening!