Since the opening of The Werf food garden, Boschendal’s vegetable allotment now features close on two hectares, which regularly provides plant-to-plate ingredients to the two restaurants, a deli and the popular picnics. Christiaan, who carefully curates the dishes, shares his knowledge of working with the seasons.
‘I have learnt to respect how much time and space it takes to grow vegetables. Winter in the Cape is definitely a time of hibernation – a sleepy, slow time for vegetable growing. Spring, summer and autumn tie in beautifully with our busy times in the restaurant. The garden drives my creativity. I work very closely with our food-garden manager Megan Mccarthy with regards to what I would like to see planted for use in the kitchen. We have regular discussions before the hunt is on to find seeds and the planting begins. “Farm to fork” is a similar concept to “nose to tail”. Working with a vegetable garden and its crop is much the same – all the produce from the garden has to be used. Although we can’t always get what we want, we do get what we need. The garden reflects on all my plates in one form or another. There’s a starter we feature from time to time consisting of roasted baby garden carrots, with fresh horseradish and accompanied by finely chopped and cured smoked-paprika sausage, made in our butchery, with a hint of goat’s cheese. I have learnt to become quite fluid in the planning of our dishes. Often there is only enough of one crop to last a day. Then it’s back to the drawing board for the next offering. My favourite ingredient is Jerusalem artichokes in the autumn, root vegetables such as beets in winter, broad beans in the spring, and tomatoes in the late summer. I love springtime. There are mangetout, peas in the pod, asparagus and broad beans all available at the same time. It is a brief window of opportunity, but well appreciated. I’m excited at the prospect of cooking with unusual ingredients and heirlooms. The garden currently has interesting varieties of corn, tree tomatoes, turmeric root and tomatillo coming through. I preserve lemons by the bucket load. They get pickled in winter and go so well with the spring produce that follows, such as asparagus, broad beans and peas.’