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Vegetables at Ham!

Last week I visited Ham House with my garden team from Polesden Lacey, to share gardening experiences and best practise amongst two National Trust properties in the London area. Obviously, my main area of interest was visiting the kitchen garden….

The walled garden at Ham House dates back to 1653, and although this was a period in history associated with Cromwell’s piety and austerity, I get a feeling that the owners of the house weren’t listening. The opulent house and stunning surrounding gardens were without doubt designed to flaunt wealth and success. The walled garden is framed at the end by one of the first ever orangerys, a beautiful, elaborate structure with large windows used to grow, and more importantly ‘show off’ recently introduced exotic plants such as citruses that had been bought from the early explorers.

The orangery is now a National Trust café, using produce from the garden to create its excting range of dishes. Obviously, it would have been rude not to try the kale soup….

The garden remains true to its roots (excuse the pun) using many old and heritage varieties. It is considered to be one of the most productive walled gardens in London and is packed full of old historic vegetables that the modern world has forgotten about such as salsify, yellow crystal cucumbers, skirret and scorzonera. Behind the orangery café is a ‘Grow Your Own' area, which is an education veg garden used to teach children about growing food. Great to see an interest in ensuring the future generation of gardening, as well as the importance of conserving the past.

 I love this beautiful, exotic-looking ‘Love lies bleeding’ that adds a splash of colour to the design scheme. Despite it’s modern looking appearance, it was a popular ornamental in the 17century and its leaves can be used in many culinary dishes. It is known as Kiwicha in the Andes, and was a staple food of the Incas.

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