At Church Farm, our horticulture plot is split into various sections. If you approach the fields from Home Field where Mirium our Berkshiremum resides with her piglets, and Rural Care’s chicken coop is situated, you will walk directly towards a large plastic contraption which is our propagation tunnel.
As you walk past the propagation tunnel, keeping it on your right, the patch of land that is buzzing with bees, flitting with butterflies, and bursting with colour at the moment despite it being September, is our very special kitchen garden.
Here we have all sorts of delicious vegetables and herbs used historically, yup you guessed it, in the kitchen. I guess everything in our fields is used in the kitchen as it is grown to eat, but the kitchen garden has a little more pizazz. It has edible flowers growing such as nasturtiums and marigolds, and borage flowers were also growing here until a few weeks ago. These lovely blue star shaped flowers taste a little like cucumber, and make a really refreshing addition to a salad.
We also have a lot of herbs in the kitchen garden. Big bushes of sage, rosemary, and parsley all regale passers by with their wonderful scents and attractive appearance. Mint of various types also grows here, such as apple mint, peppermint, and spear mint (chewing a leaf of this stuff is better than any gum!) and, just for something different, tall sunflowers punctuate the shrubby landscape of this particular plot.
Kitchen gardens have a long and colourful history. Also known as a potager in France, or a kailyard in Scotland, it can vary from a purely utilitarian plot for growing, or can have structure and design that adds to it year round visual appeal. Herb gardens in big estates are often designed this way. For example the one at Buckfast Abbey, is a set of square beds with a pond in the centre, with a selection of herbs related in either their culinary or medicinal applications grown in each square.
The Victorian kitchen garden was run in a very strict manner, with the head gardener commanding his team in a militaristic manner and considered to be a fellow worthy of the upmost respect. He was a mentor and figure head, as well the one with green fingers. Those who worked underneath him would have been apprentices, learning their trade under the guidance of a master before going on to run their own plots.
Kitchen gardens supplied the kitchen with many basic ingredients, such as onions, cabbages, carrots and the like, as well as all the herbs used to flavour soups, stews, casseroles and broths. For many families as well as the big estates, they were a vital part of home and hearth, feeding hungry bellies and producing a little extra to sell at market. In world war two they were often referred to as victory gardens, as the English family took to growing their own to ease the strain on food supplies.
Our kitchen garden at Church Farm may not be the most structurally pleasing to all, but it is full of scent and life and delicious-ness. Spring onions poke through, berry bushes line the ridges, and I remember planting shallots back in the day which are now in our Church Farm boxes. Come and pay us a visit, stroll through the Horticulture plots, and see what we do here to provide honestly grown, delicious local food with no pesticides, herbicides, or other artificial substances.