The Pig in Spring

Rhubarb at The Pig

At the beginning of April we went back to The Pig in the New Forest to visit Head Gardener Jack Lindfield. Unlike our visit last winter, it was a wet and dull day, but that didn't deter us as Jack's passion and knowledge for the plants shone through as he toured us around the greenhouse and kitchen garden.

Cavolo nero Kale

Lettuce - poly tunnel
As we began our walk through the garden Jack encouraged us to taste a range of leaves from the beds. The Cavolo Nero Kale, still growing well after our visit before Christmas, was sweet in flavour with a delicate texture. Jack explained the chefs love to use this throughout the year due to its sweet flavour making it the perfect accompaniment to many dishes. We walked through more of the garden into the lettuce poly-tunnel where the neat rows of an array of leaves were growing. The Intred lettuce is popular amongst the chefs, Jack told us he often finds them in the garden as much as him, they can't wait to get their hands on the seasons favourites. He explained that by meeting with the chefs regularly their knowledge for the plants has grown rapidly and their passion is shown through eagerness for the vegetables to be ready. 

Forced Sea Kale
We walked through the rest of the garden, seeing the forced Sea Kale in cold frames. They are put in these to go through the forcing process where they have restricted access to light, forcing them to push through the soil, this speeds up their growth as they search for sunlight. This process provides the Kale with a weak yet tender stem and gives it a blanched colour caused by chlorosis, a condition in which leaves produce insufficient chlorophyll.

As we reached the greenhouse we could see it was full of trays and pots filled with nurtured seedlings. The first thing we tried was Par-cel, its flavour was a mix of celery and parsley, it has a rough, leafy texture which is perfect for garnishing cheese boards. The next garnish leaf we tried was a miniature Nasturtium. This peppery yet pleasant flavour comes from an interesting shaped leaf detailed with veins. The chefs tend to favour miniature versions grown throughout the summer, it allows them to display more leaves on the plate so people can see the range of intricate designs each leaf has. On our way out of the greenhouse there was one last thing we tasted, the Begonia flowers. Jack didn't warn us about its sharp burst as we bit into it, a very exciting flavour that awakens your taste buds. The chefs often use it in baking to garnish pastries, although when it is in full blossom they brighten a variety of dishes and piggy bits.

Nasturtiums

 

Rhubarb
We left the greenhouse and headed towards the pigs, they are soon to relocate from their pen to join the chickens higher up near the house. This is to get more attention to the livestock and to stop the question people continue to ask, "where are the pigs?". Next to this area is the rhubarb, and WOW it's doing well! Jack was pleased by the progress the rhubarb has made in the last few weeks as they were able to have their first harvest this April. After a quick follow up we found that the chefs used the rhubarb in three different desserts. One of them being a chocolate and rhubarb tart with a rhubarb sorbet, the next a Nyetimber and rhubarb jelly and the final was in a shot of foragers granite.

Although it was raining for most of our visit, the garden was full of colour and Jack kept us intrigued throughout. After our walk we were treated with a fresh mint tea and sat by the fire to warm our toes!

Want to experience The Pig with a visit like ours? We're hosting a free and exclusive event on Thursday 16th June at The Pig in the New Forest. To get on the guest list all you have to do is register before 6th May by emailing enquiries@alitex.co.uk or phone 01730 826900. You'll be treated to tea and pastries and toured around the kitchen garden as Head Gardener Jack and Head Chef James share their dedicated expertise about the garden with tips you can take home.

 

Tags: alitex greenhouse, the pig, spring