Rhubarb Cordial, Tulips, Edible Flowers and a
Day at Perch Hill with Sarah Raven
Just over a week ago I was invited to attend an open day at Perch Hill as part of my contribution as a writer for Garlic and Sapphire – along with several other bloggers who also write for Sarah Raven’s Garlic and Sapphire blog, we were shown around Perch Hill by Sarah herself (and the lovely Alissa who works at the Sarah Raven offices in Marlborough), as well as having some time to speak with Sarah personally and ask her questions, all whilst watching her picking the edible flowers that we were to enjoy for lunch later.
The day was a sunny late spring day and having picked Belinda and Rona up from the nearby railway station, we made our way down winding country lanes to Perch Hill. Sarah’s husband Adam Nicholson was on the gate and welcomed us all with a cheery smile, we then made our way in to meet with Alissa who was waiting in the Perch Hill shop. The beauty of Perch Hill strikes you immediately and Sarah herself was gardening as we walked past lettuces and tulips growing side by side – pure purples and peaches alongside vibrant greens……
……the conservatory housed several large tables, where we were to have lunch later, and pots of succulents were interposed with little glass jars of freshly cut sprung flowers. We had a cup of tea first, and admired the freshly baked cakes that were being set out ready for the open day guests who would arrive later.
I loved the talk that Sarah gave all to all of the guests who attended the open day – her passion and knowledge shone through, and I was delighted that she set aside some time to speak with myself and the other Garlic and Sapphire bloggers. I asked her about pruning lavender – I am never sure whether I should prune in autumn or spring, and Sarah gave me some valuable and practical advice, as well as how and when to prune my quince tree too. One thing that stays with me are Sarah’s guidelines for what she plants in the Perch Hill garden, basically, everything is sown or planted for flavour first, then ease of growing and finally productivity, which is the exact opposite for most large commercial growers.
As we wandered around Perch Hill, we passed a Shepherd’s hut, forced rhubarb in terracotta bells, daffodils, tubs of tulips, rows of salad leaves, French sorrel, herbs of all types and beautiful old shrubs and trees. Perch Hill is magical and even though lots of plants were six weeks behind their normal flowering (and fruiting) season due to the cold spring, there was still lots of blooms on show…….
After our long walk about the grounds, we were all ready for lunch, and lunch at Perch Hill is a delight; there were huge bowls of freshly picked salad leaves with the edible flowers that we saw Sarah pick earlier on………jugs of home-made Perch Hill rhubarb cordial were lined up by the serving area and the whole restaurant was infused with wild garlic, rhubarb, baked potatoes, cheese and star anise.
The menu for the day was: Wild Garlic Baked Potatoes with Wensleydale Cheese and Creme Fraiche served with Wild Garlic Pesto Yoghurt OR Chicken Salad with Olives, Anchovies, Pine Nuts and Parsley in a lemon dressing – both meals were served with “help-yourself” edible flower and mixed leaf salad, Quinoa and a Carrot, Fennel and Parsley Salad. I opted for the baked potato, which was delectable……especially when eaten alongside a mug of rhubarb cordial, the recipe that can be found here: Perch Hill rhubarb cordial. The Wild Garlic Pesto recipe is also on Sarah’s site here: Wild garlic pesto
The day ended with Alissa, Belinda, Rona and I chatting by the rhubarb patch, before we collected our “goodie bags” and went on our way……it’s difficult to put into words the beauty of Perch Hill, but hopefully my photos will give you all a taste. Sarah holds numerous courses there, and I am very tempted to attend one myself…….you can see the full timetable of future events here: Perch Hill Diary of Events. With thanks to Alissa who organised the day for us Garlic and Sapphire contributors, and DO take a look at all of the wonderful articles here: Garlic and Sapphire, as well as my most popular article here: LAVENDER AND LACE, ROSES AND SALT.
If you would like to wine some Sarah Raven seeds and gardening products, I have a giveaway currently running, enter here:
Giveaway: Sarah Raven Seeds and Gardening Products for You and the Children! RRP £42:50
Great photos! I’m totally into edible flowers this year . . .
Karen S says
I have used edible flowers for years and years…..remember adding flowers to a salad for my grandparents, and they were horrified!
A beautiful and inspiring day. I remember when I worked at Gunby how glorious the gardens were and how special they made me feel, like I was witnessing history. Love your pretty salad too. A wonderful post x
Karen S says
Thanks Dom…..yes, a garden can lift the spirits when they are down…….Karen
What a wonderful blog post & images! It was lovely to meet you at Perch Hill and thank you very much for the mention in your blog post.
I look forward to keeping in touch.
Karen S says
You are welcome Rona! It was lovely to meet you finally and I really enjyed the day too! Karen
Oh gosh Karen, how lucky you were to visit Perch Hill. I have one of Sarah’s cookbooks and a lot of the photos seem to be from there, and of course, the garden has been on the telly. It looks so beautiful, even if the growing season has started late. Sounds like a wonderful day!
Oh sounds like a fantastic day Karen. Right up my street with a wonderful garden combined with wonderful food and Sarah Raven to boot. I regularly make rhubarb liqueur, but I’m not quite taken with the idea of cordial. You did leave us rather in suspense though – when is the best time to prune lavender?
Oh what a gorgeous garden. I’m rather envious of your day there Karen! I agree with Choclette, I immediately thought, so when is the best tine to prune our lavender! Do please tell us your gems of gardening wisdom, as well as culinary. Vohn x
What a great day – lucky you! The gardens at Perch Hill are really inspiring, and to get a tour with Sarah Raven herself…
What a beautiful garden, I love the little caravan and the oast house.
Looks like a great time!
Andrea Mynard says
This is such a lovely post to look at as well as read – the garden, edible flowers and all of the food looks so wonderful! Very inspiring. I’ve been making rhubarb cordial too, it’s such a summery drink – helping to convince me it IS May even on a cold, rainy day like today!
Paul Wilson says
Never tried rhubarb cordial, sounds interesting.
Paul Wilson says
Managed to try some Belvoir Rhubarb and Strawberry cordial – which was very nice.