Autumn News from the Royal Mail Hotel Kitchen Garden

The nights are getting longer and days shorter – autumn has arrived. The Kitchen Garden is prepped and ready for the cooler temperatures. From leafy greens and root vegetables, to alliums and brassicas, the list of produce is sure to have your taste buds dancing.

We checked in with Michelle, the Kitchen Garden Specialist and the team, to see what’s being harvested from the garden and inevitably making its way onto the Wickens and Parker Street Project menu’s. Read below to find out what’s soon to hit plates.

Autumn Kitchen Garden showstoppers…

The first notable mention in the veggie patch is celeriac. It is part of the flowering Apiaceae family which also includes the likes of celery, coriander, parsley and dill, to name a few. According to Michelle, it can be challenging to grow, but once mastered it is very easy and the end result is well-worth it.

The brassica family is in the ground, preparing to grow into healthy specimens. The rows include multiple types of cabbage comprising, green, purple, savoy and Hispi – an English variety annually requested by Executive Chef Robin Wickens.

Brussel sprouts are lined next to their brassica counterparts. Michelle’s valuable tip for growing Brussel sprouts lies in the timing. Brussels are often planted too late, leading to no sprouts forming throughout the season. Nurseries commonly release the seedlings to plant in February for home gardeners, while Michelle sows the seedlings in early spring and puts them in the ground as early as November.

In other Kitchen Garden news…

Kitchen Garden
Garlic, come harvest time.

Garlic and kohlrabi seedlings have been planted. Three varieties of kale are also in the soil, with Cavalo Nero being the most used. As tomato season wraps up, Michelle is getting ready to plant broad beans where they were as part of the crop rotation process.

From now until May, the garden will be sown with green manure – a mix of grain crops, cresses, mustards – to enrich the soil in time for spring.

Kitchen Garden Trials…

Continually excited about produce and innovative gardening techniques, Michelle and the Kitchen Garden team are trialling a few plants and growing techniques to keep the chefs inspired.

A popular technique in England for growing rhubarb is called ‘Forced Rhubarb’. By intentionally depriving the rhubarb of light, but keeping the conditions warm, the plant is tricked into early growth. The rhubarb produces a pale pink stem with far less bitterness and an incredibly sweet and succulent flavour.

We’ve heard it countless times at breakfast in Parker Street Project – “where is the avocado?” Well, we have some good news! The trial avocado tree planted five years ago has produced fruit for the first time. What does that mean for the seasonal breakfast menu? You’ll have to wait and see!

Bananas in Dunkeld? What?! In their first year, the bananas have proven to be quite a challenge. Typically requiring tropical conditions, the banana plants were planted inside an hot house to imitate this climate. Although they are a dwarf variety, the banana plants have grown so tall they were going to pierce the igloo shelter. Now trained to grow sideways, in time we will know how the fruit tastes after growing under these conditions. Next winter, they will have a new home in the larger hot house, planted in the middle so they can grow tall freely.

Always changing, the kitchen garden is the essence of the Royal Mail Hotel’s dining rooms. When visiting the hotel, enjoy a free kitchen garden tour everyday at 11am. Wander around, hear from the chefs and gardeners and feel the green thumb emerging.

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In the spirit of reconciliation, Royal Mail Hotel acknowledges and pays respect to the Traditional Custodians of the land we are on, the Gunditjmara and Eastern Maar Peoples and their elders past, present and future. Continue reading.