Thursday 17 September 2009

Idyllic River Cottage Veggie Patch

The finale of our trip was lunch at River Cottage HQ. We’ve been to River Cottage for a fantastic day of mushroom foraging in the past as well as to their Autumn festival. So we were keen to introduce Rad of squirrel and hare fame to the delights of Hugh’s rural utopia.

We were given a fascinating tour of the kitchen garden by a charming Chris Evans lookalike who had lots of ingenious suggestions such as:

Seed gutters

Grown your seedlings, cress and other micro herbs in guttering. It seems to work brilliantly and is a piece of cake to do.

Stem of thistle

Try braising the stems of thistles which apparently are delicious.


Tyre containers

Use tyres to create unusual containers that are ideal for growing things like potatoes in. The black rubber absorbs the sunshine and therefore keeps the soil warm. Also when it come to harvesting you can just remove a layer of tyres to get to the next level.

Tomato bags

Try growing your tomatoes and potatoes in inside out plastic compost bags. It’s a great way of recycling, otherwise wasteful plastic bags.


Red stems

Rainbow chard looked stunning.

Red stuff

As did the deep red, and slightly seductive, stems of this plant.

The best advice was about how to plan your kitchen garden / allotment. All too often we get a bit overexcited and dive in withouth thinking. We plant rows and rows of potatoes and acres of tomatoes both of which you can buy in the shops. It’s much better to find some interesting varieties of vegetables you love and can’t find in the shops or are expensive, or need to be eaten as soon as they are harvested and concentrate on them. Things like asparagus, raspberries, sweet-corn, squashes and artichokes spring to mind. It’s also well worth developing a strong herb garden and think about planting flowers such as nasturtium which not only taste great in salads but also attract the bugs and therefore save your prize vegetables from getting nailed.

Our tour finished with a casual lunch for 50 in their converted barn. Canapes of rabbit in a light jelly and smoked mackerel pate on a slice of cucumber were deliciously simple and comforting.

Rabit on toast

Mackerel pate

And don’t tell Hugh, but we may have nibbled on some of his prize peas as well…

Pea pod 2

Our main course of uber-local lamb cooked two ways was pretty special too. The shoulder was slow cooked for about a year and half with enough Middle-Eastern spices to deplete a well stocked souk.

Lamb 2 ways

Whilst the leg was flash roasted and served beautifully pink. Some slow cooked tomatoes helped to marry the two styles of lamb together, like a squirt of ketchup does with BBQ’d meat…

Cake and cream

A slice of cake with fresh English fruit and stiff nutty cream brought our magical meal and adventure around the South West to a memorable close and sent us home wishing we could stay forever at River Cottage.

This is part of our trip around the South West.


Jules said...

Wonderful sounding day. Hugh's garden certainly has come to life since we were there in Feb.

Food Urchin said...

Wow some interesting tips there, I especially like the idea of using tyres to grow potatoes.

Superb way to finish off the tour, so where are you off to next?

TC said...

I love the idea of using guttering for planting, I am definately going to try that (although I'm not sure about the aesthetics).

Browners said...

@Jules - It was a wonderful day. The garden was overflowing with fresh vegetables. Very inspirational.

@Food Urchin -Tyres seem to work brilliantly. I'm going to use this technique this year.

@TC - I'm sure you can find a way to make the guttering look good. So long as it is used in right context you'll be fine.

Helen said...

That guttering tip is ace I have to say as is the compo bag - will be trying. That's rainbow chard in the pic isn't it?

Browners said...

@Helen - Guttering trick is impressive. Great tip. It could well be rainbow chard. I'll check with Mum and then update once I've got full confirmation...

MarkD said...

Chris Evans?! A man could be offended...although the super wonky hair and chipmunk expression dont help...

Browners said...

@MarkD - I really hope you are not offended. I've got to admit, it was only in this picture that the Chris Evans-ness came out. Thanks for a great tour of the garden. It was very inspirational. And I am now delighted to have found your blog.

Ollie said...

What a fantastic day. That trick with the tyres is useful - and you're right, the colours of the chard were incredible. What an idyll the place sounds.

Browners said...

@Ollie - It is indeed a blissful idyll. It's my dream to live a life like that.

MarkD said...

oh heavens, id spend my entire life offended! stephen merchant, evans etc., hfws brother (must be the specs) glad you had a top day, a to have found your blog. great stuff. m

Browners said...

MarkD - Cheers. We're looking forward to returning as soon as we can.


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