This week I celebrated my birthday with dinner and a movie the night before with the lovely husband. I have been wanting to do a kitchen garden workshop and permaculture course for a while so that was my birthday present. But Tim also surprised me with Yotam Ottolenghi’s new Simple cookbook so I am feeling loved.
I feel my blog has gone quiet of late (for very good reasons-as life is a massive juggle at the moment) but my heart still has a piece here. Over the last months when I’ve caught up with friends you’ve noticed this blog and you’ve shared your own concerns about the world we’re living. So maybe together we can continue to think about ‘honest cooking for living’. To be less consumerist. To produce and grow food in a world where we seem to have lost any sense of seasonality.
Some of these sentiments were echoed at the Kitchen Garden workshop I attended on Saturday at Glenmore House run by Mickey Robertson. My lovely friend Ellie came along too and the day began with morning tea of apple cake and tea, coffee and elderflower cordial.
Mickey then spent some time talking about the design layout of her garden. Aesthetics is important to Mickey so for her the Kitchen Garden needed to be proportional to the nearby dairy building.
The Apple Arch is down the middle and on the right her rotating beds and on the left her guild beds with a berry enclosure. The guild beds are where she companion plants and lets different types of plants grow together; a permaculture idea which is believed to help with disease and pest management. As she took us through the guild beds later that day we saw how she had tomatoes, globe artichokes and mustard leaf together in the same bed. The bed was something Mickey liked because it allowed her to be creative and experiment.
The rotating beds on the right of the garden are a teaching method for Mickey to explain the importance of rotating crops which she does in an anti-clockwise direction. As she’s entering the autumn season, she’ll plant the legume crop where the root veg was this season and the root veg crop where the fruiting veg crop and while fruiting crops won’t work during winter, she’ll probably plant a green manure crop in the leafy green bed next. Some of the food on display included lettuce, basil, tomatoes, corn, aubergine, sweet potatoes and cucumbers.
While in the dairy classroom, Mickey also showed us a lot of her dried seed: carrot, parsnip, rocket, red elk mustard, pea and fennel!
Fennel really was a feature of today’s workshop. Mickey had it planted everywhere in her garden: some of her fennel plants have been growing alongside the Apple Arch for 12 years (which she cuts back). Fennel brings ladybugs and ladybugs are a natural predator for pest insects like aphids, mites and whiteflies. At the end of the day’s workshop we were able to take some seedlings home.
After the discussion, it was time to tour some of the 30 acres. We had a look at her figs trees which she’d caged and the crop rotation which I’ve briefly touched on.
We also looked behind her kitchen garden to view her compost system. Mickey uses comfrey as a compost activator and she has made it into a tea which is potassium rich and good for fruiting plants. Her compost recipe was to soak comfrey in water and then use the water (diluted with water at a ratio of 1 part comfrey and 9 parts water) on fruiting plants.
Around 1:30pm we returned to the dairy for a beautiful lunch of chilled Gazpacho, pumpernickel soda bread, baba ghanoush, basil pistou, goats cheese labne, prosciutto and cumquat ice cream with garden figs. The food was delicious and Mickey’s cooking philosophy is to cook food based on what’s available from the garden rather than recipes where you’re sourcing ingredients. She thinks you can do a lot from very little in your garden. I like the idea of this but it also requires having a fairly well established veggie patch and it’s going to take a while to get to that stage.