Earlier this week I was lucky enough to visit the garden at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, as they are growing both oca and achocha this year and agreed to be a case study for my MSc research project. I have been to Le Manoir once before, in 2009, so it was interesting to see how things have changed – I have put the links to my 2009 blog posts at the end of this one, if you didn’t see them at the time.
The oca and achocha are growing in the ‘South East Asian’ garden, a central section of the main vegetable plot. Its planting isn’t strictly south east Asian now, but the original inspiration for this collection of the plants was Raymond Blanc’s travels in that region. It has evolved over the years to become more focused on unusual edibles.
They have ‘Fat Baby’ achocha growing up canes in several places in the garden. I potted mine up in my garden yesterday; I don’t have anything for them to climb up yet! I have two plants each of ‘Fat Baby’ and ‘Lady’s Slipper’.
Oca ‘Scarlet with White Eyes’ are nestled in a corner. They have been replanted from tubers grown last year. Apparently they were quite a hit with the chefs in the kitchen, who used them raw, and sliced thinly, in salads.
This plant was new to me – Gotu Kola, Centella asiatica, a bog plant with a very pungent flavour. An acquired taste, I would imagine….
I had a lovely couple of hours at Le Manoir, and it will be very useful for my project. Head vegetable gardener Anna Greenland offered up some juicy tips during my tour:
Sea kale flowers are edible! They taste a bit cabbagey, with a burst of honey flavour in the middle. And if you get your nose down to the flowers, they smell like honey. At Le Manoir they have great rows of sea kale, so the scent wafts through the air. My sea kale in the garden is flowering now, so I will be harvesting some flowers to scatter over my salads this weekend.
And after having done a spinach trial, Le Manoir has come up with a favourite variety that has the best good flavour raw or cooked – Bloomsdale Long Standing, which is a heritage variety you can source from Thomas Etty if you’d like to give it a try yourselves.
There are more photos and snippets I can share from my tour next week, but in the meantime here’s a relaxing treat for the weekend :)