A FEAST FOR THE SENSES
The garden is waltzing into summer dressed by Mother Nature in an amazing techno-colour dream-coat. Sensational in every sense of the word.
Any artist would be over the moon to possess such a palette of vibrant colour. Trees, shrubs, the herb garden, all bursting with growth, soft fruit bushes rich with ripening berries and ‘oh’ the flowers!. Local florists visit regularly to pick the breathtaking array of blooms from roses, to cosmos, delphiniums, lilies and colourful sweet peas to tender fragile Ammi that slender cloud of frothy white so prized by flower arrangers. Pick up a bunch of sweetpeas to take memories home or choose a bouquet for a special occasion – you can order one in advance.
Many of the flowers are edible adding colour and flavour to salads in particular, sweet viola, peppery nasturtium or a hint of onion with torn chive flowers to mention a few.
A rippling sea of purple and white lavender surrounding the lily pond calms the mind. Relax, inhale the scents of plant, flower, fruit and tree while wandering at leisure round the garden. No perfume bottle could ever capture such subtle scents floating in the warm summer air.
In the greenhouse ripening tomatoes exude mouth watering vine aromas. In the soft fruit garden fresh strawberries, raspberries, black, red and white currants along with gooseberries smell so inviting, a bountiful harvest to be picked, eaten and enjoyed. Some fresh, others as deserts, relishes and jams.
Overhead oyster catchers swoop and dive issuing a poignant welcoming call and, in the background the heady sound of buzzing bees as they flit from flower to flower collecting nectar for the castle bee hives.
The texture of plants, leaves, vegetables and flowers contrast just as vividly as their colours. Smooth and shiny, rough, hairy while others are delicate leaving a lasting fragrance on your hands, some are eye catching but beware they may be prickly!!
And what about the gardeners how are they getting on?
Planting out complete the gardeners had a small window to get on top of the ever growing weeds! Summer pruning of the step over fruit trees and pear tunnels removed extra leaves allowing the fruit to ripen easily.
Then full on into harvesting!
Let us start with new potatoes.
Red Duke of York, a heritage variety of superb flavour and good all round cooking qualities, makes especially good roasters.
Winston has a white waxy flesh good for salads and excellent for creamy tasty baked potatoes.
Foremost is a new potato to Gordon Castle. Information suggests that it is firm fleshed good for boiling and salads. However growing conditions can have an affect, so we wait and see or should I say taste!
The first courgettes are ready. Peas have done well: garden, sugar snap and mangetout including the popular dark purple variety ‘shiraz.’ Then there are tender young kales, the first cabbages and the continuous cropping of salad leaves for the restaurant and Potting Shed shop. The soft fruit this year is providing a bumper crop strawberries, raspberries, black, red and white currants and the new gooseberry bushes have fruited well too.
In the greenhouse heritage tomato plants are laden with ripening tomatoes of every shape and hue: Ailsa Craig, Golden Crown and Money Maker are only three of the twelve varieties grown this year. Don’t forget the cucumbers ripening as I write.
The restaurant offers home cooking and baking using freshly harvested fruit and vegetables. Open 11am – 4pm Wednesday to Sunday.
Drop in past the Potting Shed to take a little of the garden home with you. Buy plants to grow your own flowers, vegetables and herbs, or a scented bunch of sweet peas to remind you of a happy day. Freshly picked fruit and vegetables are for sale along with some free recipes to take home after your garden adventure.
For the gardeners this is a special time – the long lonely ‘winter’ of covid lockdown is past. They are free at last to share with visitors who appreciate the gardens and express interest in their work.
On the evening of Monday 12th July the ‘Castle Team’ were invited by Angus and Zara to a celebration of their hard work and support which has endured through these testing times. This is indeed a unique place of friendship valued by all who care to visit or stay to volunteer.
Remember The Historic Houses Association Garden of the Year – Gordon castle is the smallest and only Scottish garden in the competition so vote for us please at https://www.historichouses.org/garden-of-the-year/vote-for-garden-of-the-year/
The garden salad bowl
Toss a mixture of torn freshly picked salad leaves into a deep bowl, top with finely shredded tender young sugar snap peas, a snipping of chives, sliced fresh strawberries and scatter a few viola flowers to decorate. Serve with a light oil and lemon dressing.
Garlic butter kale with oats and walnuts
Serves 4 people as a side dish allow 4 or 5 stalks of fresh young kale
Wash well, remove the stalk and retain. Dice the stalk and keep separate to the leaves. Blanch the leaves in boiling water for 1 minute then refresh in cold water and drain well. Repeat with the stalks for 3 minutes and drain well. Shred the leaves and mix with the stalks – try to remove as much water as possible.
Melt 30g (1oz ) butter in a deep frying pan or wok, add the garlic and cook in the butter till softened. Add the kale and stir fry for about 3 or 4 minutes. Season with salt and plenty ground black pepper.
30g ( 1oz) butter
30g (1oz) chopped walnuts
60g (2oz) porridge oats
Salt and ground black pepper
Melt the butter in a small pan, add the walnuts and oats and keep stirring to toast, season with salt and ground black pepper.
Serve the hot kale and juices in a heated dish and top with a spoon of the walnut and oat mixture. Serve the remainder in a side dish for diners to add as they require.
The topping is excellent hot or cold for salads and freshly cooked young new vegetables.
Courgette, lemon and black pepper salad
3 or 4 tender young courgettes – washed and grated
Zest of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic crushed or 1 level teaspoon garlic granules
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 dessertspoon runny honey
15g ( ½ oz ) pumpkin seeds – lightly toasted
Mix the grated courgettes with the lemon zest and sprinkle liberally with plenty freshly ground black pepper. Choose a jar with a tight fitting lid and add the dressing ingredients. Secure the lid and shake well to mix. Pour over the courgettes and toss together. Leave to marinate for about 10 to 15 minutes. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds just before serving. Delicious with smoked or barbecued fish, meats and game.
Raspberry Vanilla Cake
Makes a tray 20cm x 30cm (8x12in)
115g (4oz) soft butter
175g (6oz) caster sugar
200mls 7fl oz) double cream
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
200g (7oz) self raising flour
175g (6oz) fresh or frozen raspberries
Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan), 350F, Gas 4. Oil and line the baking tin. Cream the butter and sugar till light then beat in the cream till the mixture starts to thicken. Beat in the eggs and vanilla essence then fold in the flour. Add a little milk if needed to make a soft dropping consistency. Spread evenly in the tin then scatter the raspberries over the top. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes till firm and risen and the point of a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Cool in the tin, cut and eat freshly baked.
German Strawberry cake
Makes a round tin 20cm (8in)
60g (2oz) caster sugar
60g (2oz) melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
100g (3 ½ oz) plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
115g (4oz) strawberries
1 tablespoon strawberry or raspberry jam
Heat the oven to 190C (170C fan) 375F, Gas 5. Oil and line the base of the tin with greaseproof paper. Whisk the eggs and sugar together till they are thick and creamy, stir in the butter, flour and baking powder very gently to keep as much air as possible in the mixture. Pour into the prepared tin and tap on the counter to ensure it is evenly spread and to remove any air bubbles. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes till risen and firm to touch. Cool a little in the tin then remove from the tin by loosening the sides with the blade of a knife. Place the cake sponge side down onto a wire cooling rack, tap gently on the bottom of the inverted tin and the cake should drop out onto the rack.
When cool spread the top with a little of the jam. Trim and slice the strawberries and lay overlapping on top of the jam spread cake. Melt the rest of the jam and brush gently over the fruit to glaze. Enjoy freshly baked.