One thing the garden at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons doesn’t have at the moment is a lot of fruit. These strawberries are grown among the polytunnels. However, the estate has some fields, and these are in the process of being turned into productive land (they need drainage to be installed).
The plan is for an extension to the vegetable patch on fertile ground near the river, plus an orchard and a nuttery. Raymond Blanc wants around 30 varieties of apple (they’re currently trying varities out to decide which ones), almonds, hazels and walnuts and some soft fruit.
Inside the polytunnels, the overwintered leafy crops (including spinach, oriental mustards and rocket) are coming to an end. The rocket is bolting – but that’s fine because the flowers are used in salads as well. They have have the same flavour as rocket, but are a bit sweeter. Raymond Blanc prefers the pale flowers of salad rocket to the yellow ones of wild rocket for use in the kitchens.
In another tunnel there’s a bolting crop of coriander, but again it doesn’t matter because the chefs use all the part of this plant – flowers, stalks (thick stalks are dried), roots and seeds. Coriander is sown successionally to have plants at different stages of growth all season.
The final stop on our tour was the culinary herb garden – which provides the kitchens with almost all of the herbs they need throughout the year. Seasonal, local, sustainable and organic, the gardens at Le Manoir are a model we can all learn from. It’s just a shame that it costs a packet to visit!
Explore other parts of the garden at Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons: