Head Gardener John Mitchell showed us how he is growing high value crops for the hotel kitchens in between looking after the 20 hectare grounds. Last year he grew 500 courgettes and bags of salad and herbs at the hotel Plant Nursery. The hotel management were so impressed they asked him to develop a Kailyaird right at the back door of the hotel’s Italian restaurant. The head chef say it’s like “gold” having the fresh herbs and veg on his doorstep, and he really enjoys nipping out up to 3 times a day to cut a fresh bunch of basil or oregano. Not surprisingly, the new greenhouse is packed with high value herbs and pea sprouts along with a few more unusual edibles like an “electric daisy” for sorbets.
The old Plant Nursery is also being used to grow lots of salad crops, herbs, courgettes and super large onions! John plants very densely or uses membrane to keep weeding to a minimum (he does not have much time for that!) but also to stop rain splashing soil onto the plants, which is a problem for the kitchens.
Transition UStA is interested in how we can return to this sort of “veg supply chain” for the University, and would like to hear more examples of businesses that are “growing their own”. Most University Halls and Schools would have done this as standard within living memory.
One of the biggest Kailyairds locally would have been at St Leonards school just off Abbey Walk, which employed around 20 staff and provided fresh produce for the boarding house kitchens up until as recently as 1998.
Do you know of any other examples of this sort of growing, or would you be interested in helping to set up something similar in St Andrews as part of a cooperative food hub? Please get in touch.