Interview: Adrian Reeve, Kitchen Gardener at Rudding Park
Rudding Park’s Kitchen Gardener Adrian Reeve ensures the chefs at the hotel’s restaurants – Horto and Clocktower – always have a ready supply of fresh produce picked the same day.
The Kitchen Garden at Rudding Park gives Adrian Reeve the perfect forum to encourage guests to have a go at growing their own veg. He’s a real advocate for just having a go “even if it’s just salad leaves!”.
Adrian’s passion for kitchen gardening is infectious.
Adrian had met garden designer Matthew Wilson, who is behind the scheme for the kitchen garden at Rudding Park, while in a previous role as head gardener for the prestigious Wyken Hall in Suffolk.
He became kitchen gardener at Rudding Park Hotel in 2013 and now tends 52 raised beds made from English Oak trees from the grounds of Rudding Park.
Adrian favours heritage varieties of fruit and veg which are usually hard to find alongside other interesting crops from around the world.
What’s growing in the kitchen garden?
At the moment Kholrabi is growing in the garden. Kohlrabi is a fantastically versatile vegetable with a taste and texture somewhere between cabbage and broccoli stems. Adrian likens its appearance to the Sputnik satellite. There’s also 11 types of beetroot and herbs like Anise hyssop which has an aniseed flavour and makes a lovely tea. Caraway and bronze fennel also sit happily alongside.
Rosakrone is one of his favourites in the kitchen garden this year. It’s an unusual heirloom pea variety from Sweden with a delicious flavour and edible flowers. Adrian delights in the fact that “It grows in whirls upwards”.
Adrian explains the garden is planned out each year and includes staples like kale and beetroot. This year he’s been growing seven different kinds of garlic, a Mexican herb called “Pipiche” (which is similar to coriander) and quinoa for the second year running.
They’ve also been trialling horned melon and cucamelon which is about as big as your thumbnail looks like a melon but tastes of cucumber.
Adrian obviously takes great pride in the look of the kitchen garden and describes how the recent torrential rain means keeping the pathways clear of mud is a challenge.
His unwritten rule is always to keep the beds full, so they are looking their absolute best for guided tours.
Adrian’s favourite dish
Adrian is coeliac and so has to stick to a gluten-free diet. His favourite dish from the Horto restaurant at the moment is the angelica ice-cream. He says the season is coming to an end for angelica though so recommends visitors opt for the lemon verbena ice-cream instead.
Hake with radish leaves is his favourite dish from the Clocktower restaurant. “You just can’t beat the freshness, flavour and sweetness of homegrown produce!” enthuses Adrian.
Growing for the table
Adrian and fellow gardener Emma spend two hours every day picking for the chefs at Rudding Park Hotel’s restaurant. Produce goes from plot to plate the same day.
Winter can present its challenges, but Adrian says they grow winter crops of kale, Brussel sprouts and Jerusalem artichokes. Adrian works closely with the chefs at the hotel and remarks on their cleverness in preserving, fermenting and pickling.
“Last year we had an excess of quince which meant we could gift quince jelly and quince jam to guests over Christmas!”
Adrian tries to keep the kitchen garden as organic as possible. “It’s all about encouraging the biodiversity of the garden. Growing a good mix of everything,” he explains. “We use nematodes to control the slugs and the vine weevil.” It’s all about encouraging the ladybirds to keep the aphids at bay and being a keen beekeeper he’s always keen to keep the bees happy.
Guided tours of the kitchen garden
Rudding Park offers several experiences combined with a tour of the Kitchen Garden. Guests can choose “Plot to Plate” including lunch at Clocktower, a Kitchen Garden Tour with Afternoon Tea in the Conservatory or they can choose the Kitchen Garden Break which includes a one night stay.
One of the hotel’s best-kept secrets has to be the Breeze House where guests can enjoy private parties with the backdrop of the Kitchen Garden.
Adrian is often called upon for gardening advice and tips during these tours. The most common question he gets asked is “Why doesn’t my Clematis flower?” He’s also very handy for pruning and vegetable growing advice.
Adrian’s tips to create your own kitchen garden
- Raised beds are useful when growing your own but don’t make them too high or they’ll need to be watered a lot.
- 4 x 8 timber sleepers work a treat.
- Use a good vegetable soil.
- Enrich with manure.
- Only grow stuff you’ll use.
- Start with easy to grow vegetables include rocket and summer mix, salad onions and radishes.
- Avoid cabbages, cauliflowers and fennel they’re very difficult to grow.
- Grow from seed – it’s so much cheaper!
- Try Rose of Roscoff onions – they cost of fortune and are relatively easy to grow yourself.
- A greenhouse makes it a lot easier to grow tomatoes, chillies, cucumbers and melons.
- Try planting carrots and spring onions side by side to deter onion fly and carrot fly.
- Edible flowers taste great, look beautiful and bring beneficial insects into the garden e.g. nasturtiums, marigolds, violas
Adrian’s recommendations of kitchen gardens to visit:
- Rudding Park Hotel, Harrogate (of course!)
- Hemlingham Hall, Norfolk
- Wyken Hall, Suffolk
- National Trust’s Wimpole Hall, Cambridgeshire
- Ripley Castle, Yorkshire
- National Fruit Collection at Brogdale Farm, Kent
The competition to win an al fresco dining experience in the Breeze House at Rudding Park with Champagne reception, kindly supplied by Taittinger, is now closed.
The winner will be notified by 31st July and announced shortly afterwards.