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Walled Garden

Introduction to The Harewood Food & Drink Project

Since March 2020, our friends the Harewood Food and Drink Project have been running the Courtyard and Terrace Cafés, serving up delicious seasonal and local food. Food is synonymous with Harewood House, a place where a fully working Walled Garden has provided fresh produce to the local community and further afield for hundreds of years, including during two wartimes. In this first blog of a new series, Director Eddy Lascelles takes us through the ethos of HFDP, their work at Harewood House and what you can expect from future blogs from Eddy, Executive Chef Josh Whitehead, and other members of the HFDP team – look out for highlights of the season, foodie facts, cooking tips, recipes and more. 

 

Harewood’s Highland Cattle and Cyril the pig. Photo by Claire McClean

Harewood Food and Drink Project at Harewood House

Harewood Food and Drink Project works closely with Harewood House Trust’s Head Gardener, Trevor Nicholson, and his Walled Garden team, ensuring that we use as much of what’s grown on site as possible. By working closely together, we create circular economies where possible, ensuring that we’re minimising the environmental impact of what you eat when you’re on site. For example, composting raw food waste and repurposing other waste items to enrich the health of the soil, improve Harewood’s habitat and create better growing conditions.  Working with Trevor and his team is one of the great joys of our job. His knowledge and passion can’t help but inspire you. Knowing the thought, skill and work that goes in to growing our fruit and vegetables, is the greatest motivation our team of chefs could have to make sure we do these beautiful products justice when they reach your plates.

The Harewood Walled Garden

It is our commitment to use produce sourced from Harewood wherever possible, this means fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices from the Walled Garden, meat from Harewood’s livestock, wild foods that are foraged on the Estate, and wild game as well. What we can’t source internally, we work with select local independent artisan suppliers who share our ethos on how food & drink should be done.

We took over the running of the Courtyard Café and Terrace Tearoom on behalf of Harewood House Trust in March this year and we base our approach around ‘the Five S’s’, which underpin our approach to food and what you can expect during your visit to Harewood House:

  • Simple
  • Seasonal
  • Sustainable
  • Sourced Locally
  • Specials

 

One of our seasonal Walled Garden Soups of the day. Photo by Claire McClean.

 

Seasonal Eating & Preservation

In a time when people have a heightened awareness of the impact of what we eat, how it is produced and how it is transported, we’re on a mission to show people that great food and drink can be done with a clear conscience.

Seasonal eating” has become a much-overused phrase in the food and drink world, so why is it so important?

By eating what is in season means you’re having it when it’s at it’s very best, it’s freshest. There are a number of benefits to this; Fresher food has greater nutritional value, it tends to support local farmers and the local economy, it’s transported less distance so has an environmental benefit, and, possibly most important of all, it tastes better.

Seasonal eating is not only about eating what’s currently in season, it’s also about preserving the seasons.

When there’s a glut of something there’s a number of traditional techniques that can be used to prolong the usable season of fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and meats as well as altering and enhancing their flavour profiles. These include drying, curing, smoking, pickling and fermenting, and some more expert techniques such as clamping, ageing in bees wax and dry ageing.

 

Wild Mushrooms from Harewood. Photo by Claire McClean.

 

 At this time of year preservation techniques are particularly valuable when there’s not much growing in the gardens, other than the odd hardy brassica and root vegetable. In the past, the ability to store and preserve food over the fallow, cold winter months was literally a matter of life and death. It ensured supplies of food with enough nutritional value to keep you going until the more productive Spring time came around.

These techniques have become synonymous with contemporary cuisine as they can change and enhance flavour profiles and help to bring dishes together. Scandinavian and Japanese cuisine are both pioneers of these techniques, we put them in to use here at Harewood. Next time you’re able to visit the inside of the Courtyard Café, see the shelf behind the coffee machine. This is “Josh’s Fermentation Station”, and whilst it looks like the experimentation of a mad scientist, it will all taste delicious and be used on our menus throughout the year.

 

 

 

 

Preparing for Winter and Beyond. Sustainability in Harewood’s Gardens.

Photo credit Trevor Nicholson

Harewood’s Head Gardener Trevor Nicholson takes us through new processes and methods being implemented across the Gardens, as Harewood looks to the future and more sustainable ways of caring for its Gardens and Grounds. 

As autumn gives way to winter, the Grounds and Gardens teams have been very busy, ably assisted by our loyal and enthusiastic band of volunteers. For the grounds team this means the removal of a huge quantity of fallen leaves from Harewood’s verdant lawns. The collected leaf litter is a valuable source of leaf mould for the gardens.

Having made the decision a few months earlier to change the way we grow our vegetables in the Walled Garden to something approaching the ‘no-dig’ system, every leaf – in fact, every scrap of green garden waste – has become significantly more precious to us as a renewable source of organic matter to be re-purposed as a growing medium.

Although we’ve been making compost for many years, the real difference is in the way we now apply it – and why. Call it what you will: ‘no dig’, ‘no till’, ‘reduced tillage’ etc, there are numerous labels; but they all mean pretty much the same thing: put away the spade and stop turning over and chopping up the garden soil year after year!

Photo credit Trevor Nicholson

Regularly digging over and breaking up the soil impacts on the soil ecosystem by disturbing complex ‘food webs’ – interrelations between a multitude of soil organisms and mycorrhizal fungi, which live symbiotically with plants. Leaving the soil undisturbed and placing organic matter onto the surface not only prevents stored carbon from the soil being released into the atmosphere through digging, it also provides optimum conditions to enable the community of soil organisms to flourish.

The beneficial effect of these soil organisms includes increasing the fertility of the soil and improving its structure. One of the most important environmental benefits of adopting this method of surface ‘mulching’ is the retention of soil moisture, which not only saves water, but also reduces soil erosion and helps prevent the silting up of rivers and drainage systems.

Another added benefit to the gardener of applying organic matter to the soil as a surface ‘mulch’ is the control of weeds. This method need not be confined to the vegetable garden. We are experimenting in some areas of the Himalayan Garden with the use of waste cardboard re-purposed as a biodegradable ground cover, which is being placed between plants and topped off with sieved leaf mould.

The composting of our green garden waste and the recycling of biodegradable materials really underpins much of what we are doing in the gardens – now and in the future – as we set our focus on working in ever more sustainable ways and having environmentally considered methods at the forefront of our  thinking.

Easy as Rhubarb Pie!

Rhubarb in the Walled GardenMaria Mahon, kitchen gardener in Harewood’s Walled Garden gives an insight into this easy to grow and long lasting crop – rhubarb.

It’s that time of year when rhubarb is starting to grow and those delicious crimson stems can be seen gradually emerging from the soil, stretching and unfurling their young green leaves as if waking up from a long winter sleep. Allotment holders and vegetable gardeners alike will be looking forward to all the scrumptious culinary ways in which to use this famous Yorkshire delicacy.

During the Victorian era and right through to the end of the 2nd World War, rhubarb became very popular as growers discovered how to achieve an early crop of deep pink, tender stems through a technique known as forcing. Forcing involves tricking the plants into thinking spring has arrived. Planting them in dark heated sheds during the winter months, the plant searches for light and as it does so, the stems become thinner and less fibrous than those grown out in the field.

Growers in Yorkshire led the way when it came to growing rhubarb, and most folk have heard of the Rhubarb Triangle (Leeds, Bradford and Wakefield). However, during the 1950s demand for rhubarb went into decline as more exotic fruits became readily available from overseas.

So, how easy is it to grow rhubarb? Very easy is the answer.

Rhubarb requires very little maintenance other than an application of a general purpose fertiliser around the crowns once the harvesting season is over and an annual dressing with well-rotted compost or manure in January or February.

It needs a sunny spot with well-drained soil and so long as it is kept well watered, will provide delicious stalks ready for harvesting every 6-8 weeks during spring and summer, depending on the variety.

The easiest way to introduce rhubarb is to plant crowns and we were very generously donated some crowns from RV Rogers nursery at Pickering. Whilst November is the ideal time to plant crowns, they can still be planted right up until early spring if the ground isn‘t frozen.

Rhubarb is a vegetable rather than a fruit and a lot of people mistakenly think that the colour of the stalk indicates its ripeness. In fact, it is quite the contrary, the more time the stalk spends growing before it is picked, the tougher and more fibrous the stalk gets as it photosynthesises, so it is good to pick the stalks regularly.

We’ve a good crop on display now in the Walled Garden and hope to see some fine samples on the Courtyard Café menu in the next week or so, any perhaps for sale in the Courtyard shop.

The Kitchen Garden in the Walled Garden at Harewood

Rhubarb Planting in the Walled Garden

Anne, Julie and Julia planting the rhubarb donated by RV Rogers at Pickering.

Maria Mahon, Kitchen Gardener, gives an insight into the plans and growing that support Useful/Beautiful: Why Craft Matters this spring and summer.

The aim is to have a kitchen garden that is beautiful to look at and is useful. The vegetables are all produced using organic gardening techniques, without any pesticides or herbicides and instead working with nature using techniques like companion planting.

This means that unlike the supermarkets the vegetables will not be perfect and maybe a little bit wonky.

Last year, Seeds of Hope focused on using every available piece of land in the Walled Garden to cultivate vegetables. This year, linking in with the Useful/Beautiful theme in the House, the plan is to introduce lots of flowers in the vegetable borders.

The flowers will not only look beautiful but will each have a purpose. For example, the calendulas will attract predators such as lace wings, and hover flies that will eat the aphids that like to feed on the vegetables.

Companion planting is a key theme in the Walled Garden along with herbs. The top border will be planted with lots of herbs and flowers that can be cut or are edible. These should look and smell beautiful.

The first vegetable we hope to celebrate across all Departments will be Rhubarb, which we have been force growing and growing naturally. It’s just ready now. Then New for this year will be soft fruits, gooseberries, strawberries (ready for Wimbledon) and different varieties following through all season.

We’ve introduced hand-crafted hazel growing supports for the small pumpkins to grow up, they tie nicely into the skill and craft theme of the new exhibition and are lovely to look at.

In the coming months it will be all about celebrating the seasonality of fruit and vegetables across many areas of Harewood. The produce from the Walled Garden will feature in the Courtyard Café and any surplus will be offered to the Courtyard Shop, to be made available for sale to our visitors.

You can see more stories on our social media; Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @HarewoodHouse

 

Prolific Peas and Bountiful Beans

HarewoodHouse_FemaleGardeners Model Allotments and Shapely Peas

Britain had only 3 weeks’ worth of food supply left when the Women’s Land Army, a voluntary group, was formed in 1915 and it was to be a time that changed the role of women for good. The shift that took place 100 years ago will directly have influenced the fact that there are three full-time female gardeners in the Walled Garden today, and a team of wonderful and willing female garden volunteers.

As part of the Cultivation of Lands Order Act in 1917, which ordered farmers and land owners to plough up pastures and convert them into arable land to grow crops such as wheat, barley and potatoes, women were recruited in paid roles to take the place of men, who were fighting in their millions on the front line. By 1917 over 260,000 women were employed as labourers and farm hands.

Just prior to the war, the Allotments Act was passed, with the aim of helping households on low incomes, living in the towns and cities, to supplement their food supply by growing their own fruit and vegetables. Harewood’s Walled Garden might have been a ‘model allotment’, showcasing to the many city-dwelling women how to make a success of their food growing. Experienced horticulturists in large gardens like Harewood were often on hand to demonstrate and the focus was very much on growing crops that were highly nutritious, calorific and relatively easy to grow.

RunnerBeanPaintedladyMind Your Peas and Beans

We’ve recreated elements of a model allotment in the Walled Garden as part of Seeds of Hope. Legumes (peas and beans) would have been an important part of the garden and remain so today, as they are incredibly versatile, being nutritious, tasty, easy to grow, and able to be eaten in many different forms; from freshly picked from the garden to dried and stored for later use in soups and stews during the winter.

In the right conditions (a wind free, sunny spot with soil rich in organic matter); sowing every two weeks; picking at least twice a week and the careful choice of early, main and late cropping varieties – growers could achieve a constant supply during the months of June to October.

Peas provide an excellent source of vitamin C – known to help increase our resistance to infection and aid the absorption of iron from leafy green vegetables. Beans provide a source of dietary fibre, necessary for keeping the digestive system in good working order.

Here in the Walled Garden we have been growing an interesting selection of some of the heritage varieties, one or two of which have some very unusual names indeed, such as ‘Nun’s Belly Button’ and ‘Lazy Housewife’!

We’ve enjoyed our exploration and discovery of peas and beans. The pea can be dried and preserved, but the bean is more versatile and a far superior crop. We have grown over a dozen heritage varieties of broad beans, French and runner beans this year, all of which we think would have probably been grown in allotments up and down the country during the First World War.

In terms of order, Broad beans would have been the first in the season to grace Britain’s dinner tables, with an early crop in June, French beans would follow, harvested as young pods, these are delicious simply topped and tailed and boiled briefly within an hour of being picked.

We have been growing ‘Blue Lake White Seeded’ a heritage climbing variety of French bean which is early maturing and produces string-less pods. It is a very decorative variety with beautiful white and yellow flowers. We started this off in the greenhouse back in May and planted out in early June once any risk of frost had gone. Another sowing was also done 3-4 weeks later, and we have been picking beans none stop for the last 2-3 months.

Probably Britain’s most favourite bean however, is the runner bean and the heritage varieties we have been growing are ‘Painted Lady‘ and ‘Scarlett Emperor’, both of which are still widely grown today, mainly due to their decorative nature. Also known as ‘Yorkshire and Lancashire’ and ‘Scarlet Runner’ due to its red and white bi-colour flowers, it is one of the oldest varieties of vegetable still available.

To show just how valuable and versatile a crop peas and beans are, here are some links to some of our favourite recipes, using them at various stages of maturity.

Here are just some of the recipes that have caught our eye…

Broad Bean and Spelt Risotto

Pan Roasted Chicken with Haricot Beans

Pea and Parsley Soup

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