Chiswick head chef Tom Haynes takes us on an insider’s tour of the Chiswick garden.
What's growing right now in the Chiswick garden?
Our mint, basil and oregano are going crazy, while the rosemary and thyme are pottering along beautifully. We are stocking up on rocket pesto, basil oil, and salsa verde ready for the summer menu. Making these types of preserves is a great way of getting the most out of our abundance of fresh herbs.
Is there anything brand new that you haven't grown before?
Broad beans are going strong and we are getting a fantastic harvest from them. Our head gardener Pete and I have a little thing going on with some beach succulents and native herbs; we are working on the types of soils they need and cultivating an area in the garden so that they can become full-time members of the garden crop.
What are the new dishes you are most excited about on the menu this spring?
We are bringing back zucchini flowers with some beautiful South Australian goat cheese, lemon, toasted pine nut, basil and mint. I loved this little snack last year, it is just so light and fresh. It’s also great using the male zucchini flowers, as it means that we can grow the females flowers to full fruit, while not wasting the rest of the plant.
You're talking about planting cucumbers and pumpkin in big planters on the roof. How will that work?
I just want to grow more produce, but real estate is tight here. Last year we were growing pumpkins on the paths between the garden beds, but we weren’t content with that, so we looked to the roof. The cucumbers will only take a few weeks to get going, with some good rain and sun. The pumpkins will take months to grow, but when they start fruiting, they will look great hanging from the roof, or at least I think they will!
What's the trickiest thing to grow at this time of year?
Anything that shouldn’t be in season. We only plant what we know will thrive. There isn’t much point planting something just for the sake of it. It’s better to plant something that we know will work.
What's your all-time favourite spring dish and why?
I’m so boring when it comes to this; just the simple things done right. I love a good roasted chicken with lemon and tarragon, perhaps with some asparagus, peas and broad beans. If you feed me this, I’ll be happy. I think it’s a throwback to growing up back home, ripping into a whole chicken with my sisters and haggling on who gets which part.