The Merry month of May

May 9, 2022By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog, Recipes No Comments

May merrily tiptoed in accompanied by the distinctive cry of oyster catchers heralding an explosion of vibrant colour across the garden, where over three thousand tulip blooms illuminate tubs and flower beds;  from rich golds, to pastel pinks, ruby reds and every colour in between.  Tulips are a member of the lily family so where did they originate?

During the sixteenth century when the Ottoman Empire invaded the Kazakhstan they discovered tulips growing wild in the mountains there. The Emperor Sultan Suleyman the first so prized the flowers that they became a symbol of wealth and power. Often worn on the turban, the name tulip is derived from the word ‘tulipan’ the Persian word for a turban.

The garden is filling up becoming brighter and greener by the day. It is all go as the soil heats and the sun shines blossom covers the fruit trees, the incredible futuristic alium domes will soon be in flower, plants are donning a mantle of bright green and the trees are coming into tender leaf as if someone has shaken a pepper pot of green over their bare branches. In the soft fruit garden strawberries are in flower, raspberry canes are thriving and already clusters of would be berries are forming on the currant bushes.

The crab-apple orchard is already forty shades of green as the seedling break through the earth and the trees sway gently in the soft breeze.  In the pastel wild flower meadow the sweet peas have already begun the ascent of their birch wigwam homes surrounded by sprouting wild flower seedlings.

As busy as the bees collecting nectar and pollinating are the gardeners as they tackle the job of weeding and planting. The colder weather delayed the big plant out and now it is definitely full on!  Over one thousand vegetable, cut flower and herb plants have been waiting in the greenhouse wings to join the main cast in the garden so there is plenty to do!  Twelve varieties of heritage tomatoes are now potted up and installed in the large greenhouse. With intriguing names like Golden Crown, Black Opal, Ailsa Craig and the delicious stripped Tigerella ( as the name suggests)  to name a few; already we look forward to a ‘tasty tom!’

The first salads, broad beans, peas, potatoes, carrots, leeks, onions, brassicas  and more – what a harvest to come!

An urgent job is to replace the rosemary hedges which divide the areas of the herb garden. They were adversely affected by very low temperatures during the winter of 2021. At last five hundred healthy young bushes have arrived to replace them. As the old bushes are removed and the new ones take their place imagine the wonderful aromas which will pervade the gardens!

Round the tulips in the flower beds the gardeners are planting hardy annuals such as cornflower, calendula and aquilegia and dahlias will soon be joining them. What a wealth of colourful flowers of all shapes and sizes will grace the garden in the months to come. The first plants are now installed in the cut flower trial beds.

A fabulous burst of colour ranunculus (a form of buttercup) is to be found in the large greenhouse. The Queen of Sweden and Roald Dhal roses opposite are budding profusely. Roses too are on the way.

At last the asparagus has born fruit or should I say ‘spear’, such a short season eagerly anticipated but worth the waiting. The rhubarb this year is prolific. Providing plenty of produce for the restaurant which serves freshly prepared meals and snacks daily Wednesday to Sunday from 11am till 4pm.

Both asparagus and rhubarb are for sale in the Potting Shed Shop. Perhaps best to pre-order asparagus so it can be cut fresh for you.

The Potting shed shop also has a huge selection of plants for sale. Lettuces, tomatoes, vegetables, chillies, herbs, perennial and annual flowers ready to plant in your own garden as the growing season begins in earnest. Don’t delay now is the time to get them into the ground!

Let us all hope for good sunny weather to welcome back the ever popular Highland games on 15th May where there will be a sale of The Walled Garden plants such as various vegetables, tomatoes, chillies, flowers and herbs.

Not to mention ‘Recipes from The Walled Garden’ ;a handy cookbook.

So you can buy it, grow it and then cook it. Saving food miles.

Come visit for a daily dose of nature’s benefits as one gardener called it ‘Vitamin G’’

‘A flowery green, bird-singing land’ (William Henry-Davies).

There is great solace in the garden.

There is prolific crop of rhubarb this year, here are some simple recipes to try at home!

Quick rhubarb and ginger relish
A last minute invention by my chef friend Christopher Trotter, delicious with roasts and smoked meats and fish.
Heat a little oil in a wok or frying pan. Add a little mustard seed, chopped root ginger and a little de-seeded chopped chilli.  Stir fry quickly then toss in plenty chopped rhubarb and stir fry to coat and soften. Slosh in a little cider or fruit vinegar, add a generous spoon of soft brown sugar along with a little salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and cover the pan to steam cook for up to 3 or 4 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning and serve as a relish/chutney. Pour into clean jars, seal and store in the fridge up to two weeks.

 

The Walled Garden rhubarb and custard crumble cake
Makes a tray bake 20cm (8in) x 30cm (12in)
225g (8oz) butter
175g (6oz) caster sugar
60g (2oz) golden syrup
200g (7oz) self raising flour
45g (1 ½ oz) custard powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs – beaten
175g (4oz) chopped rhubarb

Topping:-
60g (2oz) butter
60g (20z) caster sugar
30g (1oz) self raising flour
85g (33oz) porridge oats

Heat the oven to 160C (140C fan) 325F, Gas 3. Oil the baking tin. Cream the butter, sugar and syrup till light. Sift the flour custard powder and baking powder into a bowl. Beat the egg into the butter mixture alternately with a little flour to prevent curdling. Fold in the rest of the flour along with the rhubarb and spread evenly in the tin. Melt the butter and stir into the other topping ingredients and scatter over the top of the cake. Bake in the middle of the oven for 30 to 35 minutes till risen and the point of a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Cool in the tin cut into 18 squares and enjoy freshly baked.
 
Chewy rhubarb slice
5 weetabix or oatabix – crumbled
225g (8oz) Hamlyn’s porridge oats
1 teaspoon ground ginger
140g (5oz) soft brown sugar
115g (4oz) chopped rhubarb
115g (4oz) butter
115g (4oz) syrup

Heat the oven to 160C (140C fan) 325F, Gas 3. Oil a baking tin 20cm (8in) square. Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Melt the butter and syrup and stir into the mix Press evenly into the tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes till golden but not too brown – you want it to be chewy. Cool in the tin. Mark into squares while still warm.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden

Happy Easter from The Walled Garden

April 12, 2022By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog No Comments

April arrived with chilly winds and squally showers, however, mother nature is undeterred. A host of golden daffodils toss their heads in hearty welcome perhaps a reminder that although storms may come the blessing of spring always arrives in the end.

Fruit trees are coming into blossom. First the plums, then the apple & pear trees are not long behind.

Ed Bollom the head gardener is optimistic that good will come from the cold snap because conditions are now perfect for hundreds of budding tulips to burst into full flower providing a unique display just in time to celebrate Easter.

The greenhouses are filled with seedlings waiting for warmer weather which will allow them to be transplanted into the garden itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In spite of the cold break some vegetables will be transplanted during the next week. Potatoes first, followed by brassicas, peas and broad beans.

Although later than predicted the asparagus harvest looks promising. After a rest of two years and plenty mulch and fertiliser there should be a good crop hopefully by Easter. As I write the first heads are just emerging from the ground.

Cold dry weather is not the ideal condition for rapid rhubarb growth however the first tender stems are on the way at last and with a little warmth and moisture the plants will soon put on a spurt.

Exciting plans for two new insect friendly wildflower meadows are work in progress.

One features birch wigwams which will support a riot of brightly coloured sweet peas surrounded by a sea of pastel coloured wild flowers. Head gardener, Ed Bollom, hand sowed the seeds last week. His tip is to mix minute flower seeds with vermiculite which acts as a carrier ensuring even distribution. I wonder how soon those seeds will germinate!

The second is a crab apple orchard where trees specifically chosen for their culinary use such as golden hornet and red sentinel will be planted, and, growing at their feet a vibrantly colourful mix of bee friendly wild flowers.

It will be exciting to watch as the two meadows become established in the months ahead.

Trials of new and heritage varieties will be grown among other crops this year. In order to identify these Moray Reach Out have created eye catching white wooden labels which will be strategically placed in the garden. Look out for the labels to find out what is growing there.

A cut flower trial bed is neatly laid out striped with narrow pathways to allow easy access to the flowers. Here it is planned to grow new types of dahlias, larkspur, cosmos, snapdragon and many more. Of great interest to many I am sure.

The cut flower work shop planned for the 23rd April is fully booked although it is still possible to access the course on line instead.

There are plans to host cut flower work shops lasting approximately two hours during July and August when flowers are in full bloom. More details will be available soon.

Easter is early this year so plans for an Easter Extravaganza are gathering momentum at the gardens. Special hand made and painted Easter eggs are hidden round the garden for the famous Easter Egg Hunt. Easter Bunny is preparing his costume and the café will be serving some delicious Easter bakes.

Easter bouquets and a wealth of bright spring plants will be on sale at the Potting Shed Shop.

And more besides for there will be the blessing of the brightest best display of tulips ever to say ‘Happy Easter’ while the bright yellow flowers of the majestic mimosa tree smile in the greenhouse.

Happy Easter to you all from everyone at Gordon Castle Gardens, may this spring and summer bring all that is good to you and yours. There is always a warm welcome for all.

Some Easter recipes to enjoy!

Wee egg nests
Makes 8 – 10
175g (6oz) chocolate
4 shredded wheat – crushed
Mini eggs or Chocolate dipped grapes or blueberries

Place 8-10 paper cake cases on a baking tray. Melt the chocolate in a bowl over a pan of hot water or in the microwave. Stir in the crushed shredded wheat then spoon into each case using the back of a teaspoon to make a hollow in the middle so it looks like a bird’s nest. Cool to set. Fill with mini eggs.

Healthy ‘mini eggs’
Skewer grapes or large blueberries with a cocktail stick, dip in melted chocolate. Stick in a raw potato to set. Enjoy.

Chocolate orange cake
Makes a cake 23cm (9in) square
350g (12ozs) self raising flour
60g (2ozs)  cocoa
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
250g (9oz)  caster sugar
4 eggs, beaten
300mls (1/2pt)  vegetable or sunflower oil
300mls (1/2pt) milk
Grated rind of 2 oranges
85g (3oz) pure Scottish Honey warmed a little
85g (3oz) golden syrup

Turn on the oven to heat at 160C (fan 140C) Gas 3, 325F and line and oil the baking tin.  Use a food mixer if you have one but can be mixed by hand.  Sift the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda into a mixing bowl add the caster sugar and mix.   In another bowl beat the eggs with the oil and milk, pour into the flour mix and mix on low speed to combine.   Beat on medium speed for 2 to 3 minutes.   Add the warmed honey and orange rind and beat again for 1 minute.

Pour into the cake tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 45 minutes, reduce the heat to 150C (fan 130C) 300F, Gas 2 to allow the middle to bake and firm for a further 15 minutes.   Insert the point of a skewer or sharp knife, if it comes out cleanly the cake is baked.   Cool in the tin

Cream Crowdie
An alternative decoration to finish the cake.
150mls ¼ pt) double cream
Oatmeal lightly toasted in the oven or under a low grill.
15g (1/2oz) pure Scottish honey or caster sugar
A few drops of vanilla essence

Whip the cream and honey together till softly thick, add a few drops vanilla essence if liked.   Beat in a handful of toasted oatmeal to stiffen the cream slightly but leaving it still of a consistency to spread easily.    Spread over the top of the cake, sprinkle with chocolate vermicelli and serve.

This cake can be iced formally and decorated as a celebration cake.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden

Crocus Time

March 28, 2022By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog No Comments

On a dull gusty early March day I drove towards The Walled Garden past budding daffodils which line the drive; a promise of golden flowers or Easter bells as they are known in Germany.

Then a surprise, just through the large iron entrance gates: WOW a carpet of the purest white crocuses stretches down the avenues, as far as the eye can see – dotted with purple blooms to prove they are crocuses and not a dusting of snow blown in the chilly wind! A visitor exclaimed as she walked into the grounds ‘Gosh! Spring must be on the way!’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Further into the month, the garden is slowly coming to life but cold winds have slowed the growth of many spring flowers. There will be a wealth of vibrant colour emanating from the 60 spring planted pots and tubs which gardeners Liz and Mhairi moved about ten days ago, and Ed Bollom, the head gardener, feels confident that the forecast warm spell will spur the flowers into bloom. The pots are strategically placed at the entry to the garden, planned to provide a true spring flower filled welcome and say ‘hello Happy Mother’s Day!’ at the end of the month.

The gardeners too are constructing willow domes to support the tulips using willow canes from Karen at Naturally Useful in Forres. Look for them in the garden flower beds and in the spring flower pots round the entrance and patio outside the café and shop.


Amazingly the apricot tree has produced fabulous early blossom soon to be joined by the pear trees which grow over the archways.

Preparation is the key to growing success so work continues cultivating, mulching and feeding the soil with leaf mould and well rotted horse manure. The last of the winter vegetables have been picked and sent to the restaurant kitchen: leeks no doubt to be made into a hearty soup or tasty quiche. I wonder what they will cook with the rest of the colourful winter chard.

Head Gardener Ed is hopeful that the short asparagus season will begin in about two weeks time so in anticipation find a simple recipe at the end of the blog. In Germany when the ‘asparagus is ready’ there is great celebration so, in appreciation of this rare local delicacy, let us follow suit. The crowns of rhubarb are growing daily and shortly we will enjoy the mouth tingling flavour of the first freshly stewed stalks. My great aunt Molly served this delicacy topped with broken rich tea biscuits. An enduring childhood favourite, eagerly anticipated each year and definitely worth trying.

Seed sowing continues and the greenhouses are filling up nicely with brassicas, sweet peas, and hardy annuals such as cornflower and nigella, calendula and tagetes. Tagetes is useful to the gardener as a companion plant, grown among tomatoes it attracts hover flies which help prevent crop damage by eating any green and white fly. In late spring and early summer bright vibrant orange tagetes planted round the vegetable beds will provide a dramatic colour contrast against the green leaves sprouting within. Trays of seed potatoes lie ready to chit and onions are setting all in preparation to plant in warmer days.

Mother’s Day approaches and with that in mind Gordon Castle Gardens have created beautiful bouquets of spring flowers. For sale at the gardens or available to order on line they can be delivered in the Elgin / Fochabers area or collected from the gardens.

For those who are interested in learning more about growing flowers there are still two places available on the workshop of 23rd April – booking via the website online.

Mother’s Day is a special time to visit the gardens with family and friends.

In the play area gardener Davy has created a wonderful fun kitchen for children to enjoy and they are invited to:-

Name that Tree Trunk.

The trunks of trees felled by storm Arwen lie around the estate however in their demise, each has become a mother to thousands of important micro-creatures. You are invited to name a tree trunk for Mother’s Day and the best will receive a prize of a selection of Gordon Castle goodies and a cookery book by Liz Ashworth.

To enter please email

Ed Bollom

headgardener@gordoncastlescotland.com

Or

Liz Ashworth

Lizashworth@gmail.com

Easter is not far away and there are plans for an Easter Extravaganza in the gardens such as the ever popular Easter egg hunt, face painting, a guest appearance by the Easter Bunny and much much more. Events will be posted on the website.

The restaurant, open Wednesday to Sunday from 11am till 4pm, is proud to use as many fresh ingredients as possible from the gardens. It is a popular place to eat so it is advisable to book on line for special occasions such as Mother’s Day lunch.

Today Friday 18th March, The New Potting shed shop saw the sun arrive along with a profusion of vibrantly colourful flowering primula plants. On sale now to celebrate the coming spring and especially for Mother’s Day on 27th March!

Selection baskets of fresh culinary herbs are on sale, a bonus for any cook.

Come to visit the garden, spring is a time of growth when birds are singing, bees are buzzing and a warm welcome awaits.

A cake to celebrate the arrival of spring!

Fresh Orange Lemon Curd Cake
Makes a 20cm (8in) square tin

200g (7oz) crème fraiche
3 eggs – beaten
Zest and juice of two medium oranges
325g (11oz) self raising flour
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
175g (6oz) soft butter
140g (5oz) caster sugar
45g (1 ½ oz) golden syrup or honey

Filling
2 tablespoons lemon curd
Glaze
2 tablespoons orange juice
Mixed with 3 tablespoons icing sugar

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) 350F, Gas 4. Oil and line a square baking tin.  Whisk together the crème fraiche, eggs, and 60mls (2floz) orange juice. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl. Beat the butter, sugar and syrup or honey in a bowl till light and fluffy, beat in two thirds of the orange zest. Gradually stir in the crème fraiche mixture along with the flour. Spread half the mix evenly over the base of the tin. Spread the lemon curd over this and then spread the remainder of the mix on top. Smooth the top with the palm of your hand dipped in a little warm water. This will help prevent the cake rising to a peak in the middle. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes then reduce the heat to 160C (140C fan) 325F, Gas 3 for a further 20 to 25 minutes till the cake is risen and firm and the point of a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Cool in the tin. Mix the glaze ingredients and pour over the cake while it is warm. Cool completely in the tin. Serve cut into thick slices decorated with fresh orange zest.

Steamed Asparagus with Lemon Butter and Flaked Almonds
Quick and so delicious!

Allow 12 stems of freshly picked asparagus per person (or more if you like)
30g (1oz) butter
Grated lemon zest
A small handful of flaked almonds

Simply wash and trim the asparagus and steam 4 minutes. Meanwhile melt the butter adding freshly grated lemon zest. Quickly toast the almonds under a medium grill.

Serve the asparagus with warm lemon butter, scattered with the hot flaked almonds and enjoy.

Rhubarb and Pumpkin Seed Flapjacks

Makes a tin 20cm (8in) square

115g (4oz) butter
85g (3oz) golden syrup
60g (2oz) soft brown sugar
225g (8oz) porridge oats
115g (4oz) rhubarb
30g (1oz) pumpkin seeds

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) 350F, Gas 4. Oil the baking tin. Melt the butter, syrup and sugar together. Mix the oats, rhubarb and pumpkin seeds in a bowl then pour in the melted mixture and stir together. Press into the prepared tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes till golden and set. Cool a little then mark into squares while warm. Leave to cool completely in the tin then store in an airtight container.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden

Planning Ploughing Pruning

February 2, 2022By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog No Comments

Drive over the bridge into the estate, take a moment, slow down, look right…  Reclining on its grassy couch lies the trunk of an ancient beech without doubt over 300 years old, a mother tree which survived wars and storms, a symbol of permanence.  Sadly its aged hollow trunk was no match for storm Arwen; now she is at rest watching over her domain, as magnificent in her demise as she was in life.

In the aftermath of storm Arwen Gordon Castle estate has lost countless trees. Many bordering the road approaching the gardens are gone, leaving standing timber punctuated by neat piles of sawn logs and branches. The fishing season is upon us so the  ghillies, who did such a sterling job helping to clear storm debris, are now back at work on the River Spey. Specialists will be required to attend to the few potentially dangerous rogue trees.

Drive through bright dappled low winter sun glancing through the remaining trees to find the garden, unscathed, sheltered behind high brick walls. However with the loss of so much forestry it is now possible to see the castle tower from the south west corner.  Come visit and see! From a distance the tower looks as if it is level with the garden; I wonder what one can now see from the top of that same tower?

An unusually mild January this year, but, no matter, the first job is ‘pruning!’ The soft fruit area has already been done weeded and tidied, next come the rose bushes. Then a month of pruning the trained fruit trees; apples, plums and pears. At the time of writing mild conditions prevail however  frosty weather can be an advantage;  at this time of the year who knows what the weather will do? Pruning is essential to keep the structure and shape of the trees so they stay healthy and bear a good fruit crop later in the year.

Some of the larger perennials have been divided and replanted in the borders.

Then to cultivation! Twenty tons of well rotted horse manure lies waiting to mulch the vegetable beds, eventually it will be ploughed into the soil. Ed prefers horse manure because it appears to contain less unwanted plant seeds.  The addition of this organic matter makes a big difference to the soil providing nitrogen, improving soil structure while retaining water and nutrients. ‘The secret is in the soil!’

January is an exciting ‘deciding’ time. What shall we grow this year?

Plans are in place to grow at least twenty varieties of colourful dahlias,  the tubers arrive soon to be potted up in March, brought on in the greenhouse and planted out later in the year.

Seed lists of vegetable and cut flower varieties are being compiled ready to order by the first week of February.

There are plans to join the Heritage seed library by growing heritage plants, saving the precious seeds to send to the library which helps conserve vegetable varieties that are not widely available.

Joining the usual well known potato varieties are three heritage ones which will be clearly marked –  Belle de Fontane, Foxton and Carolous.

The Heirloom vegetables which Liz is planning to grow in the trial bed come with some intriguing names.

Beetroot – Egyptian turnip rooted
Cabbage – golden acre
Cauliflower – dwarf erfurt
Carrot – Jaune du Doubs
Onion – white Lisbon
Turnip – Veitch’s red globe
Parsnips – Hollow crown
Radish – long white icicle
Sweetcorn – Stowell’s evergreen

All will be planted in clearly labelled rows. I cannot wait till they are ready to harvest because it will be interesting to find out how they cook and taste! A long time ago someone developed these vegetables to meet the palate of the time. I wonder how we shall find the flavour!

Learn how to grow your own.

Grow your own courses for vegetables and cut flowers will be delivered at the gardens and online in March and April and more details will be available soon.

Click here for more information. 

 Platinum jubilee events to celebrate the Queen’s special year are being prepared– more details to follow.

Plot to plate in June and July

An exciting new initiative championed by Moray Food Ambassador Ghillie Basan.

Enjoy a tour of the garden collecting fresh garden produce with head gardener Ed Bollom. Watch as our resident chef transforms the freshly picked fruit and vegetables into a delicious lunch while relaxing with a glass of one of Gordon Castle’s iconic brews! A fantastic day out.

Date for your  diary!

Have fun at the popular Highland Games on 15th May 2022. The garden will have their popular stall of plants for sale. The restaurant is open Wednesday to Sunday from 11am till 4 pm serving freshly cooked dishes using fresh garden produce where possible. There are still leeks, chard, potatoes, kales, cabbage and sprouts in the garden and you will find them on sale at the Potting Shed. Jerusalem artichokes too, they are good this year available to order in advance.

GLAN’S JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE SOUP
My friend Glan makes this delicious recipe each year.
Serves 4 people
400gms( 14oz) Jerusalem artichokes scrubbed, trimmed and chopped
150gms( 5 ½ oz) potatoes peeled and chopped
60gs (2oz) unsalted butter
500mls (16 fl oz) vegetable stock
½ teaspoon fresh lemon thyme or garden thyme ( or ¼ teasp dried)
Zest and juice of half a lemon

Melt the butter over a low heat and gently sweat the artichokes and potatoes for 10 minutes with a lid on the pan. Add stock, thyme and lemon zest. Simmer 20 minutes till the vegetables are tender ( make sure the potatoes are soft or they will be gluey when pureed). Add lemon juice and season to taste. Blend till smooth. Serve hot.

Now some home bakes for cold winter days.

BUMPY ROAD FLAPJACKS
125g (4 ½ oz) butter
30g (1oz) honey or golden syrup
115g (4oz) soft brown sugar
125g (4 ½ oz) self raising flour
115g (4oz) porridge oats
Handful of mini-marshmallow
Handful of chocolate chips

Heat the oven to 160C (140C fan) 325F, Gas 3. Oil and line a baking tray approx 20cm x 25cm (8x10in). Melt the butter, honey and sugar in a pan till warmed but not boiling. Mix the flour and oats in a bowl. Stir in the melted ingredients. Scatter half roughly over the base of the tin. Scatter with the marshmallow and chocolate then cover with the rest of the mixture and press lightly together. Bake for 20 minutes no longer or the mixture will become rather crisp. Cool in the tin and mark into squares while warm.

Kindly written by Liz Ashworth for Gordon Castle Walled Garden

December in the Garden

December 16, 2021By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog No Comments

 Everyone at the gardens and many beyond are celebrating the prestigious award of being voted best historic walled garden in Britain. However, the ferocity of storm Arwen brought a bit of a wake-up call. Sadly hundreds of ancient trees did not survive, one of the oldest, a gigantic beech tree, fell across the avenue and is thought to be over 300 years old. It was completely hollow inside and it makes one wonder about tales of how Robin Hood evaded capture, it was said, by hiding in such a tree in Sherwood forest!

Trees grow strong roots on the side that will withstand the prevailing wind, because the storm came from a different direction it caught many of them literally off guard. It will take a long time to clear the fallen trees across the estate, some have landed in a dangerous position which will require specialists to remove them safely.

The good news is that were was minimal damage to buildings, none to people and the walled garden remained unscathed sheltered by the high surrounding red brick walls.

Now the gardens are being put to rest for the winter. A new gardener, Marie, has started work here, a trained florist, she has already been involved in wreath making. An apprentice gardener, Cathy is learning through work experience with the gardeners for the next six months. Head gardener Ed is delighted to have these two additions to the team ‘ It will make a huge difference and give an opportunity to pay more attention to detail, such as dead heading and smartening the garden in general.’ He said.  Bulb planting is now completed and the vegetable beds are being cleared and tidied ready for next year’s crops.

During the month, wreath making workshops have been very popular and there are some exciting plans for 2022 including the use of the old shop as a teaching venue. In March and April 2022 vegetable and cut flower Grow Your Own courses will be held here, they are also available online. Each participant will learn much from experts and return home with a large goodie box which includes a comprehensive course manual, notebook, garden gloves and all the bits and bobs needed to start their own growing project.

‘Plot to Plate’ events are also planned. At these Ed Bollom will conduct guests on a garden tour where they collect fresh produce to be prepared and cooked for them by a chef on site while they enjoy a tipple or two of Gordon Castle Gin, beer or cider. More details to follow.

Meanwhile Christmas afternoon teas continue in the restaurant and newly published book, a Taste of the Highlands by Ghillie Basan, which includes a feature about Gordon Castle is on sale in the gift shop. Ghillie will be doing a book signing in the cafe on Friday 17th December.

Plans for next year’s planting programme are coming together – more about the exciting ideas of growing heritage varieties next month.

We wish all our readers a very Happy Christmas and may 2022 to come be a good year for you when we look forward to welcoming you to the gardens once more.

Very best wishes

All at Gordon Castle Walled Garden

Gordon Castle Walled Garden wins Garden of the Year 2021

November 16, 2021By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog 6 Comments

We won!

In a record-breaking vote, we have won Garden of the Year Award 2021, sponsored by Christie’s auction house, accumulating over `three thousand votes for the first time in the competition’s 37-year history. It is the first success for a Scottish garden since 1998, and is the first Scottish garden ever to win the award outright. Gordon Castle Walled Garden overcame stiff competition from Harewood House in Yorkshire, Lowther Castle in Cumbria, and five other extraordinary gardens across the UK. Over eleven thousand votes were cast in total.

Owners of Gordon Castle Estate Angus and Zara Gordon Lennox said, “We are absolutely delighted to have won the Historic Houses Garden of the Year award and would like to say a huge thank you to all our visitors, followers and friends of the Walled Garden for their votes. For us, and our small team of gardeners and volunteers, it is the stuff that dreams are made of.

It has been seven years since we embarked on the project to restore this magical place from a near abandoned grass field to the productive and beautiful space which has emerged, showcasing the very best of fruit, herbs, vegetables and cut flowers. None of this would have been possible without the extraordinary hard work of our entire team and the support of the local community.

This award will deliver an enormous boost to The Walled Garden, the local economy and hopefully to Scottish gardens as a whole, recognising the significant benefits gardening has on well-being, health, and happiness. We hope visitors will be encouraged to come and visit the Garden, to discover this beautiful area of Moray and Speyside and, inspired by what they find, leave with a smile on their faces.”

Head Gardener, Ed Bollom said, “We couldn’t be more excited about winning the Garden of the Year Award. We are only a small and relatively unknown garden and we’ve been working incredibly hard over the last seven or eight years to turn a bare patch of ground into one of the biggest working kitchen gardens in Britain, it has truly been a labour of love.

Our visitors are often surprised by the sheer variety of plants within the walls. Everything we grow has a use; the vegetables go to our café or for sale direct to visitors, the fruit is used for cider, gin, jams and chutneys, and our cut flowers are used to decorate the castle and holiday cottages or sent off to local florists. We extract essential oils from our lavender and rosemary and the herbs are used in a range of cosmetics. The garden and gardeners work very hard to earn their keep! Originally the Walled Garden was used to provide fresh produce for the Duke of Gordon but now it’s used to provide an income for the estate and the gates are open to all. I find it immensely satisfying to see the fruits of our labour being enjoyed by so many people. We want the garden to be enjoyed by everybody and with a hardy band of volunteers, regular trips from the local schools and growing visitor numbers we’re really becoming part of the local community.

We are so grateful to our visitors for voting by the thousand to help us win this award. We’re still relatively unknown and so the title of ‘Garden of the Year’ will go a long way to put us on the map and spread the word about the project and all of the fascinating things that are going on in our walled garden the far North of Scotland.”

Garden Designer, Arne Maynard said, “What has been truly special about this project is that from the very beginning both Angus and Zara have been completely committed to it, physically involved in double digging, removing rubble and stones, planting, weeding, harvesting. They have been incredibly hands on, working hard to create a beautiful garden they can be very proud of. The ‘Garden of the Year’ award is testament to this commitment and hard work and we wish Angus, Zara, Ed and the whole team huge congratulations on a well-deserved title!”

About Gordon Castle Walled Garden

Gordon Castle was one of the largest houses in Scotland until the mid twentieth century, when circumstances led to the sale of the estates and the demolition of the greater part of the building. The surviving, much more modest but handsome castle is now home to Angus and Zara Gordon Lennox and at the heart of a busy diversified estate and innovative and entrepreneurial business. The Walled Garden has been a leading project amongst many.

At a whopping eight acres, the walled garden – almost certainly one of the largest in the country – was commensurate to the size of the gargantuan house it was created to service. Happily, it not only survived but is today thriving once again. Angus and Zara commissioned renowned garden designer Arne Maynard to take a fresh look at the derelict site in 2013 and to design a new, modern and crucially, productive garden fit for purpose for the next hundred years. The scale of the effort was truly epic. There are an estimated one million bricks in the fifteen-foot-high surrounding walls; a further 48,000 were required just to edge the beds along the two-and-a-half kilometres of new path laid.

Planting strives to combine cutting edge design with the productive ethos of a traditional kitchen garden. The four cut-flower beds are colour themed: ‘Golden Peat’ is a mixture of hot shades and contrasting darker colours, ‘Glowing Heather’ hosts predominantly soft pinks and purples, ‘Icy Glen’ shines white, interspersed with green, while ‘Scotch Thistle’ draws on cooler blues and purples. Around and alongside, more four hundred fruit trees have been planted in ornamental forms, either as step-overs or espaliers, joining an existing 250 mature specimens.

The plants here play a central role in supporting the enterprise that is fuelling the garden’s renaissance. From June to October the garden’s café is self-sufficient, supplied by over two hundred varieties of fruit vegetable grown on site. Asparagus, salad leaves, beetroot, pumpkins, artichokes, and cabbages are joined by aubergines, chilli peppers, and even melons raised in the restored Victorian glasshouse. Apricots and apples, peaches and pears are just some of the fruits cultivated, a great many of which – especially the plums and berries – are used not just for food but also in the production of the many flavoured varieties of the castle’s award-winning gin, flavoured by the garden’s herbs and botanicals. Essential oils, distilled on site, fragrance hand creams, soaps, and shampoos. Cider and ale have recently joined the brand’s stable, also brewed from homegrown harvests.

Seventy thousand spring bulbs and established perennials pack ornamental and herbaceous beds with scent and almost year-round colour. A play area with an outdoor kitchen and activities for children brings learning as well as fun into the garden, which has become a valuable and much-loved community asset as well as a destination for tourists from further afield. All income is re-invested in the garden and a packed schedule of special events and workshops keep school children, students, local residents, volunteers, and passing visitors busy in any season.

For further information about the award please visit Historic Houses.

Follow our journey on Instagram @gordoncastlewalledgarden

Landward, Clafoutis and Book Signings

November 9, 2021By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog No Comments

Gordon Castle Autumn Lake

The weather is cold and most days are wet although there are some bright interludes of piercing low winter sun which lights the gardens, dazzling in its brightness. The leaves on tree and shrub have turned from forty shades of green to as many autumnal hues of russet, crimson and gold as they gently fall to carpet the ground at our feet.

The gardeners are kept busy with ‘winter work’ clearing vegetable beds of earlier crops leaving leeks, cabbage, kale and neeps to harvest over the next few months. Any surplus fruit and vegetables are donated to the food bank in Elgin.

In the cut flower beds all is activity as the gardeners unearth and divide several of the herbaceous plants such as bright starry flowered rudbeckia and traditional old garden favourite anthemis. Known more commonly as camomile it produces a profusion of attractive daisy like flowers and fronds of aromatic foliage. The colourful display of dahlia flowers is long past so the gardeners are lifting the precious tubers to store over the colder months.

With spring 2022 very much in mind, the planting of 10,000 bulbs is well underway and we look forward to a fabulous display of aliums, anemones, daffodils and tulips. Numerous tulip filled tubs are planned to surround the café and placed as ‘sentries’ at the entrance to display a profusion of vividly coloured blooms to welcome visitors.

Special care is given to the cut flower beds to ensure a supply of early flowers for local florists to cut and for the gardeners to prepare the ever popular flower bouquets so that visitors can take home a little piece of the gardens to welcome the first days of spring.

Earlier in the Autumn, the well known BBC Television programme Landward came to the gardens to film part of Episode 20. Click the image below to view the visit!

Nick Nairn waxed lyrical about the garden produce most especially the deep golden Gordon Castle plum. This rare fruit caught Nick’s interest; he described it as ‘ juicy sweet, with a complex flavour almost sweet and sour all at once.’ The plum was propagated by John Webster head gardener here from 1850 till his death in 1890 when his son Charles took over the role.

Nick so enjoyed the plums that he took some away with him to create a pudding on his cooking stage at Cullen Harbour. The programme was screened on Thursday 4th November. If you missed it you can catch up on BBC iplayer.

This year Ed, the head gardener had a quest to find out how large a marrow could be grown in the garden.  He definitely succeeded and the largest, weighing in at a whopping 35kg has been officially named ‘leviathan’!

We are spoilt for recipes this month. It is amazing what you can make out of just one marrow from cake, to jam, to chutney and soup, even a delicious dairy free lemon curd. Not forgetting Nick’s special Gordon Castle Plum Claffoutie!

The restaurant uses garden produce as much as possible and is open from Wednesday through till Sunday from 11am till 4 pm. Takeaways are available on Monday and Tuesday. To celebrate Autumn and Christmas to come the café is serving Tipsy Afternoon Teas from 5th to 20th November followed by Christmas Afternoon Teas from 24th November  until 23rd December. Remember to book in advance

The gift shop is open Wednesday to Sunday. This year featuring a special book ‘ A Taste of the Highlands’ by Ghillie Basan which features a piece about Gordon Castle and the famous Gordon Castle Plum Gin Christmas cake recipe– time to get baking I think!

Ghillie will be signing her book on Friday 17th December between 2-4pm. 

 

Recipes

Gordon Castle marrow and tomato relish
1.2 kg courgettes or marrow – de-seeded and chopped
1 red and 1 green pepper – de-seeded and chopped
1 large onion – peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic – peeled and crushed
1 tablespoon salt
900g granulated sugar
1 tin chopped tomatoes
300mls white wine vinegar
20g mustard seeds
10g ground coriander
15g ground ginger
10g ground cumin
2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons chilli flakes
30g potato starch

Put the courgettes/marrow, peppers and onion into a large pot, sprinkle with sale and just cover with cold water. Leave to soak overnight in a cool place. Drain well and put into the pan along with the sugar, tomatoes and spices. Stir together and bring to the boil. Simmer till the liquid is greatly reduced. Thicken a little with slaked potato starch. Jar while hot, seal and label. Leave to mature one week and then enjoy. Once opened store in the fridge for up to one week.

Marrow lemon curd
1kg (2.2lbs) marrow – de-seeded and roughly chopped
Simmer in a little water till tender then blitz smooth
Add 225g (8oz) granulated sugar
The rind and juice of 2 lemons
85g (3oz) butter

Bring slowly to the boil stirring all the time. Simmer slowly till the mixture thickens – it takes a while so be patient and stir to make sure it does not stick. Thicken with a little slaked potato starch if it does not thicken enough, this will depend on the texture of the marrow. Pour into clean jars while hot, seal and label. Store in the fridge and use within two weeks.

For those who are dairy free you can omit the butter.

Spicy marrow soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1.2 kg marrow – chopped
1 large onion – peeled and chopped
2 carrots – peeled and chopped
2 large potatoes – peeled and chopped
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 stock cube
Water
2 tablespoons tomato puree
Salt and ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil and then sweat the vegetables and curry powder together in the hot oil for a few minutes to soften. Barely cover with water and add the stock cube. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour. Add the puree and simmer a few minutes. Blitz smooth and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Fudgy spicy marrow chocolate cake
2 eggs
75mls (2 ½ fl oz) sunflower oil
60mls (4 tablespoons) milk
140g (5oz) soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 teaspoon ground ginger
45g (1 ½ oz) oz cocoa powder
175g (6oz) self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
30g (1oz) blitzed sunflower and pumpkin seeds or chocolate chips
200g (7oz) grated marrow

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) 350F, Gas 4. Oil and line a baking tin 20cm square.

Mix the eggs, oil, milk, sugar and essence together.  Sift the cocoa powder, flour and baking powder into the wet mixture, add the seeds and courgettes and mix together. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes till risen and firm and the point of a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly.  Cool in the tin. Dust with vanilla sugar or cocoa. Cut into squares and enjoy freshly baked. Store in the fridge and eat within four days.

Nick’s Gordon Castle plum clafoutis
I have taken this down from the demonstration on the programme where Nick and Dougie cooked the clafoutis in a barbecue at Cullen Harbour!! Nick used individual dishes and I reckon the amount of batter he mixed would do four such dishes of you could use a shallow 25cm ( 10in) diameter oven proof dish instead.

450g (1lb) ripe plums – stoned, each fruit cut into 6 pieces.
Put into a bowl and sprinkle with a little caster sugar
Batter:-
80g ( about 2 ½ oz) plain flour
4 eggs
Beat this together then beat in 150mls ( 5 fl oz) full fat milk
100g (3 ½ oz) caster sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Heat the oven to 200C (180C fan) 400F, Gas 6. Butter the inside of the dishes you plan to use then sprinkle this with caster sugar. Add plenty of fruit into the base then pour over the batter. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes for individual dishes or 35 minutes for a larger pudding. Till risen, firm and golden on top. Serve warm sprinkled with caster sugar.

Late summer recipes

October 12, 2021By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog No Comments

The Autumn equinox has past but it seems that the late summer sun is still very much with us and most days are bright with the heat of the sun pleasantly warm. September has been a dry month, however, the gardens have welcomed the days of rain which have done no end of good. Never-the-less,  time is passing, the nights are slowly drawing in as autumn quietly tip toes into the gardens tipping leaves with gold and providing the last harvests of the year.

September was a mild month; a real bonus for the gardeners as they collect the last of this year’s crops. The apples have not been so prolific but still sufficient in quantity to send to Elgin’s Orchards to be pressed into Gordon Castle fresh apple juice; a rich blend of flavours from the multitude of apple varieties growing against the garden walls. Such names as James Grieve, Laxton, Cox’s orange pippins or the pink fleshed bloody ploughman propagated in memory of a ploughman shot dead for stealing apples. Not forgetting ‘Beauty of Moray’ bred by John Webster head gardener here from 1850 till his death in 1890.

This month half a ton of Gordon castle apples and pears have been sent to Aberdeenshire to be made into next year’s supply of Seidear. It is the first Scottish cider made by keeving and the methode champenoise which takes over a year from harvest to bottle. This champagne alternative is proving popular with visitors to the gardens where it is for sale in the shop.

The ripe juicy sweet eating apples grown on the step over trees are for sale at the Potting Shed Shop.

There has been a bumper harvest of plums some of which Scottish chef Nick Nairn collected on a recent filming visit with the TV programme Landward. Nick had plans to cook with the plums in a cooking demonstration at Cullen harbour to be televised on the Landward programme during October.

A cornucopia of coloured squashes glow in the beds, some have been harvested. The giant marrows look promisingly large, almost ready to be lifted from their earthy beds. Ed the head gardener is keen to maximise growth so he will be watching and testing when the marrows have reached full growth by the fingernail test. It seems that if a fingernail can be pressed into the skin the vegetable is still growing!

In the large greenhouse the leaves have been stripped form the tall tomato plants allowing the abiding sun to warm and ripen the tomatoes hanging in profusion on the vines. Every day there are more and more to be picked and enjoyed. There is nothing like a sun ripened home grown tomato no matter the shape or colour. The chillies have been prolific this year and there are several different strengths on offer!!

Chrysanthemums and roses continue to bloom protected from the elements, ready for that all important bouquet. Melons have been grown here since Victorian time and this year they have yielded a small crop which is still ripening.

In spite of the cold start and dry conditions potatoes have been outstanding this year. The lack of rain in the early summer months has intensified their flavour and what a tasty selection there is. From rich creamy golden fleshed Charlottes, to the small salad potato Anya, which is a delicious alternative to the better known Pink Fir Apple. Then there is Isle of Jura, a great all round potato with fluffy rich flesh equally good to boil, mash or roast. Ratte is an interesting ‘fingerling’ potato propagated in France, however their origins date back to 1600’s when Spanish conquistadors brought such tubers from the New World. By 1800 la Ratte potatoes were a favourite with top chefs. Immigrants carried them to America where today they are greatly prized.

Buttery moist golden flesh with a hazelnut flavour, boil, steam, bake, roast they make delicious potato puree. Try making mini hasssleback potatoes with lemon and parsley or serve in salads with garlic, herbs, olive oil and wine vinegar .

From the trial beds Shetland Black potatoes have been outstanding this year. Native to Shetland they are said to have come from a 1588 Armada shipwreck. Dark skinned, intense dry purple veined flesh and bursting with flavour. Watch they boil quickly probably best cooked in their jackets, sauté roast or make crisp chips. Delicious.

The Romanesque cauliflowers were a big success and the drumhead cabbage are hearted and almost ready to cut. High burgundy potatoes are soon to be dug. A novelty potato boasting pink flesh and bright pink skins, make colourful mash, roasts and crisps. Gardener Liz is looking forward to growing a selection of different vegetable varieties in the trial beds next year.

The brassicas continue to provide a rich harvest, A variety of kales such as cavolo nero and emerald ice, beside which the savoy cabbages Tundra and January Kings (they ripen early here) have grown well. Purple sprouting broccoli has been cut already and it will continue to sprout well into the autumn.

Large bunches of hand tied everlasting flowers such as helichrysum and amaranthus hang from the rafters at the potting shed, dried and ready for sale or to be added to traditional wreaths later in the year.

The Potting Shed shop is open daily from 10am till 4pm and the restaurant is open Wednesday to Sunday serving fresh local food including garden produce where possible. Monday and Tuesday takeaways are available from the kiosk beside the Potting shed.

Come visit the gardens to feel the warmth of the maturing sun radiated from the ancient walls and wander through the beds of colourful flowers, especially dahlias which have come into their own this month illuminating the garden with brightness. A lasting memory to picture in your mind’s eye in the darker months ahead.

Potatoes nicoise
Serves 2
1 tablespoon olive oil
225g (8oz) diced potatoes
1 red pepper – cored and chopped
4 spring onions – trimmed and chopped
1 clove garlic – peeled and chopped
1 sprig rosemary – remove the leaves and chop finely
1 large tomato – peeled and chopped
12 pitted black olives – halved
Pinch of chilli flakes
Sat and ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a medium sized pan. Add the potato, pepper, spring onions and garlic and stir fry over a medium heat for 3 or 4 minutes. Reduce the heat, cover the pan and steam cook for a further 2 or 3 minutes to soften the potatoes. Add the rosemary, tomato and olives along with a generous pinch of chilli flakes. Stir well and cook a further 2 or 3 minutes to heat through. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper and serve hot as a light snack or to accompany grills Anchovy lovers may like to add a few finely chopped along with the tomatoes and olives. Delicious cold as a salad too. To make a more substantial salad meal you can add some flaked tuna.

Kale pesto
75g ( 2 ½ oz)  kale – chopped
2 cloves garlic – peeled and crushed
30g (1oz) pumpkin seeds
25g (scant 1 oz)  basil leaves
6 tbsp ( approx 90mls) olive oil
3 tbsp (45ml) lemon juice
30g (1oz)  pecorino or other hard cheese finely grated
Blitz the ingredients adding water if needed to make a softer consistency.
Store in the fridge and use within four days.

Ginger crumble apple cake
225g (8oz) self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
60g (2oz) caster sugar
115g (4oz) butter
30g (1oz) syrup
60g (2oz) porridge oats
2 eggs – beaten
160mls (just over 5 fl oz) single cream or creamy milk
1 large cooking apple – peeled and chopped (150g approx)
Topping:-
½ pkt crushed ginger nut biscuits
30g (1oz) Hamlyn’s porridge oats
60g (2oz) butter melted

Heat the oven to 160C (140C fan) 325F, Gas 3. Oil a baking tin 30cmx20cm (12inx8in). Put the dry ingredients into a mixing bowl and rub in the butter.

Stir in the beaten egg and cream or milk to make a soft dropping consistency. Fold in the apples and spread evenly in the prepared baking tin. Mix the melted butter with the other topping ingredients and scatter over the cake. Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 to 30 minutes or till the point of a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Cool in the tin. Cut into squares and enjoy freshly baked.

Cinnamon spiced Autumn apple cake
This recipe is based on a traditional Spanish/Moorish recipe.  You can also use plums, pears, peaches or mango for the topping – or a mixture of fruits, what ever you like. Remember to add the lemon juice, vanilla and cinnamon.

Drizzle with water ice made with fresh lemon or orange juice to finish the cake.Makes a cake 30cm (12in) x 18cm (7in)
Topping:-
2 sharp tasting eating apples –  peeled cored and sliced
1 teaspoon vanilla Essence
1 teaspoon ground Cinnamon
Juice of a fresh lemon
For the cake:-
175g (6oz) butter
115g (4oz) caster sugar
60g (2oz)  light soft brown sugar
175g (6oz)  sifted self raising flour or plain flour sifted with 2 teaspoons baking powder
3 large eggs – beaten
Water ice to finish made with fresh lemon or orange juice

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan), 350F, Gas 4. Oil and line the tin. Prepare the topping by mixing the sliced fruit with vanilla, lemon juice and cinnamon. Cream the butter and sugar till very light a fluffy and pale in colour. Beat in the eggs and then fold in the sifted flour. Pour into the prepared tin and spread evenly. Top with the sliced fruit and bake for 25 to 30 minutes till risen and springy to touch and the point of a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly. Cool in the tin then drizzle with water icing. Enjoy freshly baked.

The Midas touch

August 24, 2021By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog No Comments

Driving under the arched gateway towards the castle I became very aware of the majesty and peace of this place. Ancient larch and pine trees, tall and strong, stand on each side of the drive. Over centuries they must have seen hand carts and horse drawn carriages give way to Model T Ford cars, bicycles, shank’s pony and many more modern modes of transport bringing visitors who come to ‘take a turn’ in the gardens.

The late summer sun bathes the garden in golden light illuminating the ripening harvest. Plums, pears and apples hang from fruit trees gilded by an enduring sun as if King Midas himself had brushed against them as he strolled past listening to the cry of the resident oyster catchers celebrating the last few weeks of their summer stay.

It was a mild restful day in early August when Ed (the head gardener) and I talked about the garden, seated on a wooden bench beside the lily pond. You could almost feel the garden slowing down with a sigh of restful fulfilment and gratitude for the bountiful harvest nature has provided. Bumble bees buzzing in the lavender at our feet have been abundant this year. Six different varieties have been identified so far.

As we talked, an interesting lady engaged Ed in enthusiastic conversation about the growing of ‘Billy buttons’ (crispidia). These bright everlasting flowers along with achilea, larkspur, helichrysum and lavender will soon be cut, bunched and dried to make autumn garlands and Christmas wreaths.

Colourful blooms of every shape and hue splash colour across the beds: sweetpeas, the bright softly rippling wild flower meadow, herbaceous borders and a trial bed of more unusual varieties. A delight to the eyes of numerous visitors who come for a stroll.

The large greenhouse boasts a rose bed: Pale blush pink ‘Queen of Sweden’, scented apricot tinged ‘Roald Dahl’ and pure white ‘Tranquility’ sit opposite emerging purple and citrus chrysanthemums all sheltered from the detrimental affects of rain.

Several florists come regularly to cut fresh flowers from the gardens and greenhouse beds. The gardens also supply bouquets to order, as long as the season lasts the popular bunches of sweet peas are also on sale.

Now in the ‘full glut of produce’  there is little rest and certainly not enough hours in the day for Ed and his hard working team of gardeners and volunteers.

The peas and beans have been prolific this year; the garden peas are now past but an abundance of French and runner beans remains.  Sadly onions have not fared so well because of the predominately dry conditions, watering seems to do little to perk them up!   The artichokes are growing well, the stunning edible flower heads maturing, and a delicacy soon ready to be picked and enjoyed.

The separate trial bed is slowly taking shape and we are looking forward to some interesting vegetables and tatties come autumn.

In spite of a cold spring, dry weather and late planting, the potatoes have done better than expected.  Winston provided a good crop. The next early is Casablanca a creamy white fluffy potato, which steams, boils and bakes well and makes crisp roasters and chips but watch this tasty tattie cooks quickly.

Courgettes are prolific growing bigger day by day. A cook’s dream because there are so many dishes to be made from just one, savoury and sweet.

In the large greenhouse nearby grows an abundance of steadily ripening tomatoes and maturing chillies the ideal ingredients for many a cook.

In the small greenhouse aubergines gleam dark purple, bright green crisp cucumbers hang from the vine and some baby melons are just appearing underneath the leafy plants.

The apple and pear trees are laden and promise a rich harvest. Unfortunately the plums and apricots have not done so well being affected by the cold spring and late frosts which damaged the blossom and prevented pollinators from doing their job.

This year Ed has paid special attention to the peach trees growing against the wall behind the restaurant and his extra work has borne fruit. Large luscious peaches hang luxuriantly from the branches and some have already been picked. Sweet and juicy a Gordon Castle peach is a real treat.

We talk about the circle of the year, and each season the garden takes us on a journey. This month we leave the garden maturing resplendent in colour and rich in produce mindful of the power of Mother Nature to astound, please, calm, heal and provide.

The restaurant serves food Wednesday to Sunday from 11am till 4pm. Produce picked fresh from the garden features on the menu.

The gardens are open daily from 10am till 4pm. The Potting Shed shop sells fresh produce with free simple seasonal recipes, plants and flowers.

GARDEN RECIPES

Summer Stir up

A quick basic recipe made with fresh garden vegetables.
Shredded fresh green cabbage
2 baby courgettes sliced thinly
A handful of mangetout peas – remove the string along the back of the pod and shred
A handful of shelled garden peas
Olive or sunflower oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 clove garlic crushed
A handful of pistachio nuts
Sea salt
Ground black pepper

This is a quick dish to cook so make sure to prepare all the vegetables and have them in a bowl beside the cooker. Heat a splash of oil in a large frying or wok pan. Add the mustard seeds and stir till they begin to pop, quickly add the garlic stir a little then add the vegetables. Do this quickly or the garlic may burn. Keep stirring and tossing the vegetables till they are coated in the oil.

Add a splash of water, reduce the heat a little, cover the pan and steam cook for about 1 minute. Remove the lid, season with salt and ground black pepper then toss in the pistachios to heat through and serve.

Shak-shookit

A garden version of shakshuka! – Serves 2 people – Cooks in 15 minutes
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion – peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic – peeled and crushed
2 small courgettes sliced
2 large tomatoes – skinned and chopped
½ teaspoon ground coriander
Generous pinch of chilli flakes
Pinch of sugar
Sea salt to taste
2 fresh eggs

Heat the oil in a medium sized frying pan. Add the onion and stir fry to soften a little, add the courgettes and tomato and stir fry together. Add the coriander and chilli. Mix and then reduce the heat to allow the vegetables to cook and soften stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Season to taste with a pinch of sugar and sea salt. Using the back of a soup spoon make two hollows in the cooked vegetables leaving them equally spaced. Break one egg into a cup and carefully lower into a hollow and repeat with the second egg. Sprinkle with a little sea salt. Cover the pan with a lid and cook on a low heat for 6 to 8 minutes depending how you like your egg cooked. Serve hot with crusty bread.

Roed Groed

A Danish red berry pudding which literally translated means ‘red groats.’
This simple dish makes use of fresh soft fruits – red and black currants, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries. It will taste different every time you make it depending on the fruits you use.

To serve 4 people
1kg (2.2lbs) mixed soft fruit
Granulated sugar
Potato starch, corn-flour or arrowroot
To serve
Fresh berries, cream, ice cream or yoghurt

There are two ways to make this dessert.

  1. Put the washed fruit into a bowl, mash the berries with a fork then sprinkle with sugar. Leave covered for 2 hours to allow the juices to flow. Drain overnight through a jelly bag or fine sieve.
  2. Put the berries into a pan, prick well with a fork and sprinkle over a little sugar. Heat till the juices flow then turn off the heat, cover and leave to cool. Drain as for method 1.

Measure the juice and allow 30g (1oz) starch to each 600mls (1pt) of juice.

Slake the starch with a little water and stir into the juices. Heat stirring all the time till the mixture thickens. Add sugar to taste. Cool a little then pour into serving dishes or a large bowl. Chill well and serve with cream, ice cream or yoghurt and fresh berries.

Raspberry cake with a hint of milk chocolate

Makes a cake tin 20cm x 30cm (8in x 12in)
4 eggs
85g (3oz) caster sugar
30g (1oz) golden syrup
85g (3oz) butter
60g (2oz) milk chocolate
200g (7oz) plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
175g (6oz) raspberries

Heat the oven to 180C (160C fan) 350F, Gas 4. Oil the baking tray well. Whisk the eggs and sugar till light and holding the trail of the whisk.

Meanwhile melt the butter and chocolate together and allow to cool. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Add the flour to the thick egg mixture along with the melted butter and chocolate and stir carefully together. Pour into the prepared tin and scatter with the raspberries. Bake for 15 minutes in the middle of the oven then reduce the heat to 160C (140C fan) 325F, Gas 3. for a further 10 minutes. The cake should be risen and firm to touch and the point of a skewer inserted in the middle comes out cleanly.

Cool in the tin. Cut into squares and enjoy freshly baked.

Hot smoked haddock and potato salad

Serves 4
1 small fillet smoked haddock
New potatoes approx 450g (1lb)
2 spring onions peeled and chopped
Dressing:-
1 tablespoon olive
1 dessertspoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon soft brown sugar
1 teaspoon mustard
1 level teaspoon ground coriander
Salt and ground black pepper
Squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Steam or micro-wave the haddock until it is just cooked. Flake the fish roughly and lay aside.  Scrape or peel the potatoes, cut into even sized pieces then cook in boiling salted water till tender but still firm. Pour the dressing ingredients into a screw top jar and shake well to mix. Toss the potatoes into a serving dish, add the haddock and spring onions then pour over the dressing. Stir gently together , stand for a few minutes to allow the flavour to develop and serve warm.

Guest blog written by Liz Ashworth

A Feast for the Senses

July 14, 2021By Jennifer Kelly: AdminBlog No Comments

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/

Recipes

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.

Topping:-

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

Dressing:-

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

Sprinkle:-
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.

Erdbeer Kuchen
German Strawberry cake
Makes a round tin 20cm (8in)
2 eggs
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.