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Herbs

The foodie fashionistas

Best Western’s trendsetting hotels tell us what’s hot in their gardens and what the
best-dressed plates will be wearing this season.

Best Western Plus Ullesthorpe Court Hotel, Ullesthorpe
Paul Burgess Operations Director

What’s Hot
The largest crop that we grow is the rhubarb, which the sweet chef uses for crumbles, brûlée and in meringue roulade. It’s seasonal, so you have to get it while it’s hot (or rather cold)!

Who’s the creative genius?
The gardener, Dave, who lets us have some cabbage for the Sunday carverys, as well as carrots and also beetroot, which this year was turned into beetroot chutney – it’s really great with cheese.

Divas?
We also have a sexy herb section that is used in sauces and for decoration of food  – the perfect accessory to a fabulous meal!

Time for a little drinkie?
We don’t grow enough to start putting it in the drinks yet, but give us time…

Best Western Castle Green Hotel, Kendal
Justin Woods, Executive Chef

What’s hot?
Hairy bittercress. It is plentiful in the garden and it is free. It grows wild in flowerbeds and along the sides of buildings. Most people will pick it and discard it as a weed, but it is perfectly edible and has a great taste. We use it in salads and as a garnish to dishes such
as Cumbrian air-dried ham. Some of my chefs are very interested in wild and foraged foods and the hairy bittercress is something we recognised quite easily, whereas some other wild herbs are a bit harder to spot.

Who’s the creative genius?
David Johnson, the head gardener. He is passionate about the whole of the gardens and woodland at the hotel, but has taken special pride in sourcing some local varieties of apple to grow in the garden.

Divas?
The sage in the garden can get out of hand. We try to use it in soups, such as pumpkin and sage or white onion and sage, and we also used it in stuffing to go with chicken and turkey throughout the summer and autumn.

Time for a little drinkie?
We have a couple of elder trees in the garden, so last summer we made quite a few bottles of elderflower ‘Champagne’ which will be ready for drinking this summer. Should be good in a tall glass with ice and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Best Western York Pavilion Hotel, Fulford
Sean Battles, General Manager

What’s hot?
Coltsfoot is very trendy at the moment, especially in salads. It’s very expensive to buy, but being from the dandelion family it grows like a weed, which is why we’ve chosen to plant our own.

Who’s the creative genius?
The gardener Adam Branch is the son of the owners and also works in the restaurant – he loves it when he sees his grapes on the cheeseboard along with the chutneys made from our own pears and apples.

Divas?
Kale is the new black! Some of our veg is very fashion conscious. As well as black kale, we grow candy stripe beetroot, purple sprouting broccoli and purple carrots.

Time for a little drinkie?

We’re linked to the Fulford Community Orchard which has an overflow of pears that they donate to us. This year we will be pressing our own perry from our pears and Fulford’s. For a more warming drink, we make fresh teas, such as mint, from the garden herbs.

Best Western Compass Inn, Tormarton
Rupert Monyard, Manager

What’s Hot
Black pumpkins, a very boutique breed. In the last few years we have successfully grown pumpkins in large numbers in the kitchen garden, and about three years ago we decided to trial the new black variety, which has golden, nutty flesh, and grows well in small spaces. The trial was so successful we ended up with 72 pumpkins, which the kitchens used throughout the autumn/winter season.

Who’s the creative genius?
I try to spend one day a week in the garden during summer, but we have a chap who does the hedges and lawns and Di the gardener (my mother-in-law), who does most of the beds, boarders and veg patch. Even the owner, Paul, likes to get out on the mower in summer.

Divas?
Pumpkins, like melons, squash, marrows and other large fleshy fruit and vegetables, require a lot of water, so through the warm summer months they need watering every day. As the pumpkins get larger they may need supporting away from the soil to stop them from rotting – straw is the traditional thing to use for this.

Time for a little drinkie?
We have several sloe bushes in the grounds which are perfect for making sloe gin, which we sell around Christmas time.

Best Western Ufford Park Hotel, Golf & Spa, Woodbridge
Tania Robertson, Owner

What’s Hot
Honey. During a good season a beekeeper might be able to collect in excess of 100lb from a strong hive. So far the guests have been very supportive and interested at the prospect of being able to get honey from us. The location of the hives has been kept top secret so the bees aren’t disturbed by curious joggers or golfers!

Who’s the creative genius?
Sandy Sutch, the beekeeper. We looked for a local bee-keeper and discovered Sandy, who by sheer coincidence turned out to be a member of our leisure club. Her top advice is don’t rob all the honey and never open the hive when it looks stormy (unless you are a fast runner!).

Divas?
The queen bee, of course! A ‘queen right’ colony usually means happy bees. If enough space is provided for plenty of eggs to be laid, there is good forage available and the weather is good then the bees are content.

Time for a little drinkie?
That comes next! The bees have only been at Ufford Park since summer 2011. We are hoping for a good 2012 season so that we can use honey in the kitchen, on the breakfast table where guests can drizzle it in their tea, drool it over their porridge or spread it on their toast. We also hope to have enough for the guests to purchase.

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