Why We Love Our Culinary Garden
The chefs at Castle Hill do an impressive job of sourcing their ingredients as close to home as possible and so it makes perfect sense they would be excited to have food grown on site. They appreciate the quality found in herbs that were picked that morning and radishes that grew just meters away, not miles.
This difference of “meters not miles” is one of my favorite aspects of the job. I get a lot of satisfaction from seeing the produce I grow go straight to the fine dining plate so close by. This situation is ideal from the point of view of optimizing freshness and flavor, and from a bigger ecological perspective, since there is little to no fuel used in the transport process.
Having complete chain of custody of ingredients is also a big benefit of growing food on site. By growing certain items here at Castle Hill, chefs, waitstaff and our guests get to know the full story behind the food they are preparing, serving and eating. From the purchase of seeds, to the germinating, planting, tending and harvesting, we can tell the story of each plant and product.
When produce is brought to the kitchen in a matter of minutes after harvest (not hours or days) the resulting product maintains peak pungency, flavor, and nutrition. The nutritional benefits come from being grown in healthy soil and being picked at the peak of ripeness. Our harvest is served as fresh as fresh gets and the chefs and diners can tell the difference.
Another benefit of the close relationship between the culinary team and our garden is that nothing goes to waste. When thinning radishes we use the tops. When cutting back we use the short cuttings. The culinary team is wonderful about incorporating every item that is grown – no matter how small the harvest.
No wastage is a privilege and not the standard. As a farmer’s daughter, I know how much produce gets tossed aside on a given day. At my family’s farm we compost whatever doesn’t go to orders, so it gets “recycled” but it is not as ideal as watching what you’ve grown go to appreciative hands.
And then there’s the bottom line. It always helps when the numbers support the cause and our first season proved that growing our own is more cost effective than buying in. I am a big supporter, none the less, of purchasing from surrounding farms, but it is a nice little bonus to recognize that growing organic, fresh produce on site with a low environmental impact is economically sustainable too!
by Leita Lord, Castle Hill Inn Horticulturist, June 2018