Many restaurants have started growing their own produce, developing menus around the food they produce to combat the rising price of fresh produce and sustain supplies of fruit and vegetables.
Growing your own produce doesn’t require a large plot of land. As Toby Baggott, co-founder of Roots + Seeds Kitchen Garden in Cirencester says, “Start with the space you have even if it’s just a windowsill for growing herbs or a balcony to house a few pots. Take the leap and have a go at planting a few seeds and watch them grow. Sow what you want to eat, don’t be intimidated and learn from your mistakes.”
Roots + Seeds Kitchen Garden café and restaurant overlooks their quarter-of-an-acre garden, where a broad range of produce is grown including kohlrabi, trombone courgettes, purple heritage carrots, purple peas and rhubarb. Tony says, “It’s so rewarding serving customers produce grown on-site and they can see the fruit and veg growing from their table!” The Kitchen Garden is also used as a community space for schoolchildren to grow food, “so there are educational and wellbeing advantages too,” he adds.
At the Three Fishes in Clitheroe, Lancashire, the whole menu and ethos is geared around the produce it grows on its one-acre vegetable garden and huge polytunnel. Produce includes brassicas, squash, pumpkins, peas, beans, broad beans and Swiss chard. Nigel Haworth, chef patron, says, “By growing our own produce, we are creating a sustainable restaurant, one that reduces our carbon footprint and provides a bounty of fresh and nutritious produce. My advice is that if you have the space, it’s the future. The cost and quality of flavour is well worth the extra effort. The best way to go about it depends on the scale of your business. Have a go – it’s not as difficult as some might think, but you do need a gardener if it’s on a reasonable scale.”
Gardener, Edward Parker, is in charge of the Three Fishes’ plot, which has a ‘no dig’ approach, meaning the soil is left undisturbed. “This helps the plant roots grow, maintains the essential nutrients and prevents soil erosion. We feed the soil with organic matter and let nature work its magic,” says Nigel.
At The Chubby Castor in Cambridgeshire, 70% of vegetables used in their menu are grown in the 2,000sqft garden next to the kitchen, while the other 30% is sourced through eco-friendly partners. Chef patron, Adebola Adeshina, says, “It’s rewarding to watch our own produce grow, create menus around it, knowing what will be ready to harvest and when, and then prepare dishes in our kitchen using our own vegetables, salad leaves and herbs.”
The Yard, Adebola’s sister alfresco restaurant, uses vegetables and salad ingredients exclusively from the kitchen garden. Around 30 varieties of vegetables and herbs are grown in the garden and in greenhouses, which are looked after by gardeners Eileen and Martin Stalley.
Adebola says, “Go for it. Even if you only have a small space, it’s worth it. I promise you that you won’t taste better fruit and veg – and it also enables you to avoid any issues there may be with supply in the future if you grow your own.”