In celebration of Scottish Food Fortnight, we spoke with our head gardener, Tom, to learn how he manages our two-acre Kitchen Garden throughout the year, and to discover more about the special growing conditions at the hotel.
What is your favourite thing to watch grow in the garden?
I love watching the espaliered apple trees down the centre of the garden, they show so much seasonal variation.
What do you think is the most underrated vegetable, fruit or herb available in Scotland?
Jerusalem artichoke, which we have an abundance of at The Torridon. They have an earthy flavour and can be roasted or made into a soup. They also make a great hedge or windbreak and have a bright yellow flower.
How does the climate and seasons differ at The Torridon?
We generally have a much cooler climate at The Torridon being within the mountains making it difficult to grow at times, the wind and rain are prevalent. We also have a very short growing season.
Is there anything special about the soil used in the Kitchen Garden?
The soil used in the Kitchen Garden was once the ballast of the ships that arrived from Ireland carrying the material to build the original hunting lodge in 1887.
Do you use any elements from the local area to help produce?
We use manure from our own Highland cattle to mulch the vegetable beds, which provides a nutrient dense feed for the next growing year.
What is your favourite time of year in the garden?
I’d say Spring – seeing the garden come to life!
How does the new Gin Garden differ to the original Kitchen Garden?
The new Gin Garden is a formal design in-keeping with the original Kitchen Garden however the planting of the botanicals and herbaceous plants offer a contemporary twist.
What produce grows the best in the garden?
Fruit generally seems to grow well in the garden due to the long days of daylight we get in the summer; gooseberries, blackcurrants, blackberries, redcurrants, raspberries, apples, quince.
How closely do you work with head chef Ross to plan the produce grown?
We normally go over a seed list at the beginning of the year although Chef Ross’s menu is normally dictated by the garden produce and what is growing at that given time. I have plans to work with chef on a new project next year…
What is your favourite dish you have eaten that has used the produce you have grown?
The garden courgettes are a favourite of mine. So, any dish with them on!
What are your top tips for maintaining the garden?
My top tips would be:
- Keep on top of weeding; with a hoe on a dry day or by hand
- Feed plants and vegetables with a good quality liquid feed
- Keep outside vegetables covered under a cloche to ensure minimal damage by pests