Winter at The Pig

The Pig Hotel

I recently visited The Pig in the New Forest on a beautifully clear, crisp winter's day, to catch up with Head Gardener Jack Lindfield and see what's growing in the Alitex greenhouse and kitchen garden.

Alitex greenhouse at The Pig
It was my first visit to The Pig franchise (and definitely not my last!) so it was lovely to finally see the greenhouse in situ and visit the acclaimed hotel and grounds. Set in the stunning New Forest, the 'restaurant with rooms' is entirely informed by what's growing in the kitchen garden and all other fresh ingredients such as meat, fish and cheese are sourced within a 25 mile radius. This hotel certainly means it when they say 'locally sourced'.

The greenhouse looks different from the last time Sam visited back in September but it has year round use, encouraging young seedlings and protecting fruit and vegetable plants which don't do well in a cold climate. Although he has worked at The Pig for well over a year now, Jack Lindfield has only recently taken on the role of Head Gardener, relishing the opportunity to nurture and develop the precious growing space. He was full of ideas about improving and expanding as we took a walk around the garden. As we stopped in the greenhouse, a visitor commented to Jack that he had never seen such an immaculate garden and I listened in earnest as Jack gave him some fruit growing advice.

Whilst the garden can be seen to be 'sleeping' through these cold winter months, chard is one of the vegetables brightening up the menu and garden. "If the chefs had their way, they could get through all of this chard in one dinner service," says Jack. "but it's not just about filling the plate. We want visitors to taste the homegrown menu and then see where and how it's all grown; it's all part of the unique experience."

Leaves growing the Alitex greenhouse
This is true of everything they grow at The Pig. Jack and his team are growing plenty of leaves to add to dishes as garnish. We tried one which has the distinct taste of mustard which was delicious. No condiments needed here! These ingredients are fresh and exciting and a real talking point for guests in the restaurant.The delicious food created by the team of chefs is a result of a collaborative approach between Jack and Head Chef Dan Gover. Jack ensures they meet  at least every other day to discuss what's growing and available for the menu. It's a lot of effort to have such a local, seasonal and constantly changing menu, but that's what makes The Pig so successful.

As we walked through the garden, observing row upon neat row of fruits and vegetables, I could see there was lots growing in readiness for the coming months and I could even smell the wonderful wafts of garlic.Back inside the greenhouse, Jack showed me all the young leaves used for infusing including Cola Bottle Pelargoniums which smell just like the childhood sweet and leaves smelling of blackcurrant cordial. These were just asking to be used to infuse ice cream or syllabub...delicious. It was great to have Jack's knowledge on hand to show me this as I may not otherwise have noticed these unassuming plants. If you walk through the gardens, you're likely to always find a gardener working away who will happily talk to you about what's growing. Jack has also been housing a grapefruit plant inside the greenhouse which provides the optimum growing temperature, and a welcome burst of citrus.

Kale Cavolo Nero

Another winter favourite currently on the menu is the trendy variety of kale called cavolo nero. Growing proudly and rather resembling something like a Christmas tree, this robust vegetable is packed full of vitamins and can withstand the cold weather.

We'll be back visiting the team at The Pig in a few weeks to see how they are preparing for Spring in the garden.

If you want to visit The Pig for food or to stay in one of their lovely rooms, visit their website. The greenhouse and gardens are open for you to take a look around and hopefully get some growing inspiration of your own.

Grapefruit tree in the greenhouse

Tiles on the floor of the greenhouse

Quail's house

Alitex greenhouse at The Pig
Tags: kitchen garden, the pig, greenhouse, New Forest, the pig hotel, growing your own