At this time of year a voyeuristic peek at the kitchen gardens of some of Britain’s best cooks and chefs is thrilling ~ there is nothing like going behind the scenes of the plots and produce of the great and the good of the British foodie scene for inspiration and enlightenment.
“Kitchen Garden Experts” is published by Frances Lincoln. Its author, Cinead McTernan is a horticulturally trained journalist~writer~grower, who has worked at and edited a number of publications, including The English Garden, The Edible Garden and The Simple Things Magazine. Jason Ingram is her multi-award winning food and gardening photographer husband.
Together they have travelled as far north as the 2000 acre family farm of the Monachyle Mhor Hotel in Perthshire, to deepest west Wales to visit the one acre kitchen garden of The Grove restaurant and hotel in Pembrokeshire, across to the East Anglian walled gardens of Wimpole Hall in Cambridgeshire and then back down to The Pig’s hotel and restaurant edible plantation in the New Forest.
In total twenty chefs and their head gardeners were interviewed, and their partnerships, collaborations, experiences, ideas, visions and guidance provide a valuable resource for both novice and advanced gardeners who want to grow seasonal, regional food with success but without waste. The size of the garden and the depth of the budget are irrelevant: this book is about having a productive work ethic and an enthusiasm for all things natural and delicious.
Each entry tells the reader the history, size, location, soil structure, methodologies and designs that have been put in place at each location. Two specialisations are chosen per café~restaurant~hotel, and both grower and cook tell you how the crop is grown, harvested, stored, cooked, presented and served. There are 40 recipes and 185 pages of countless hints and tips along the way ~ keep a notebook and pencil by your side as you read.
Every page is filled with beautiful photographs, you will hardly be able to contain your envy and desire. Neat rows of summer salads, plump ripe heritage tomatoes, perfectly vertical bean poles and terracotta vases of abundant herbs in technicolour glory make this work a luxurious gift as well as a useful day-to-day manual. Produce porn is the new rock and roll.
For me the pleasure lies in the revelatory scope of the book: being able to learn how Ruth Rogers at The River Café, Sir Terence Conran at The Albion and Skye Gyngell at Heckfield Place select and source their home-grown produce is privileged insider information. We are privy to the normally unseen relationship between the head of the kitchen and the head of the garden. I have eaten at many of the places included in the book and often covet recipes from the Menu ~ some are not easily obtained. You are entering the inner-outer-sanctum, the horticultural nerve-centre of recipe development and inspiration.
The kitchen garden “secrets” are also priceless nuggets, from hardy, diligent, conscientious growers that know how to ensure germination, improve yields, keep diseases at bay and make best use of resources.
Raymond Blanc’s two acre kitchen garden at Le Manoir Aux Quat’Saisons, managed by Anee-Marie Owens is saved till last: the micro-leaves polytunnels, edible flowers and blooming courgettes are the icing on the cake.
This celebratory book will not only motivate and mobilise you into growing, but also into going, to visit, to travel, to find and to taste. Britain is now embracing the growing~making revolution with open arms ~ hopefully this debut book is the first of many more such exciting journeys.
Cinead McTernan's website. Follow on Twitter: @hoeandhum
Jason Ingram's website. Follow on Twitter: @jasonphotos
Frances Lincoln's website. Follow on Twitter: @Frances_Lincoln