21 January 2016 By Lucy Wheeler
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.
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."
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.
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.