From plough to plate: How Symondsbury Estate celebrates the joys of every season.
As consumer interest continues to grow concerning provenance, seasonality and growing conditions of produce, it is no surprise to see more and more kitchen gardens flourishing in the South West. Not without the nurturing green fingers of knowledgeable gardeners and enthusiastic chefs supporting this positive movement however.
Opening their cafe at Manor Yard just over 5 years ago, Symondsbury Estate were sure from the start that they wanted to provide hungry customers a menu bursting with their own ingredients, influenced and driven by the flavours, colours and textures of each season. Taking it one step further, it was also determined that all the food to come out of their kitchen was to be chemical free and ultimately full of flavour – something only to be achieved through the dedication of a committed garden team that would work closely with the creative chefs to bring the seasonal offerings to life at the table.
Maintaining the vegetable garden as chemical free as possible is an integral part of the growing process for gardener Mel: “After a few years we have come to realise what works and what doesn’t – especially when it comes to potential pests. In order to tackle these pests we use biological controls that are more environmentally friendly. This keeps us from using harmful chemicals such as pesticides and it’s quite amazing how this enhances the flavour of what we grow too”.
Deciding to concentrate on a small, yet carefully crafted menu that represents each season, Symondsbury Kitchen have used their plentiful network of local producers from the beginning, along with a garden growing from strength to strength each year, offering customers dishes with the total confidence that they could trace every ingredient. The budding vegetable garden provides most of the cafe’s salad leaves, herbs, edible flowers and vegetables, all changing variety depending on the time of year, from winter greens to summer berries.
Mel along with fellow gardener Kate and the Symondsbury garden team grow produce all year round, working carefully with the land, seasons and chefs to ensure that the wide variety of crops are planted at the correct time of the year to ensure their success. “It’s all about planting the right thing at the right time”, Kate says. “This is what makes the seasons exciting and plentiful, and the menu varied”.
Not wanting to see anything go to waste, Symondsbury Estate also produce their own jams, jellies, chutneys and marmalades, sealing up the flavour of all their produce to be enjoyed out of season.
“2018 is also an exciting year for our apples”, Kate adds. “There was once a neglected orchard that our team began to take care of and started making the most of the apples being grown from the trees. We have been carefully pruning the trees so we can encourage growth and begin to improve production for this year. An abundance of apples will be pressed from our own orchard into our Symondsbury Estate apple juice, which will be available to buy in Symondsbury Store and is also proudly served in the café”.
As Spring is showing signs of soon returning, Symondsbury Kitchen is looking forward to another successful batch of ingredients and Mel thinks the vegetable patch is already looking promising: “Squash was very successful last year and it is showing no signs of slowing down this year. Since squash is very greedy when it comes to growing space, we decided to plant it up an archway. This consequently has saved growing room for other exciting varieties and also allows visitors to Symondsbury view the squash growing in all their glory!”.
In an attempt to grow and buy locally, support the local economy and provide visitors with the best produce the estate could offer, Symondsbury Estate’s overall vision has always been “to provide low impact tourism, which takes advantage of the countryside, the nearby coast and provides opportunities for more employment in the local community”. And there’s us thinking that Symondsbury Kitchen was just another kitchen garden.
Symondsbury Kitchen is open 7 days a week from 10am until 4pm.