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‘Preserving’ the walled garden

By Sarah Nicholl-Carne, volunteer gardener and chutney maker

Seven years ago, we started growing vegetables in the walled garden at Fulham Palace. There weren’t many beds, not much space, and a limited range of produce. The first garden volunteers were recruited, to help the full-time gardeners. We began selling a few salad leaves to visitors, and soon acquired our wonderful, authentic market barrow. Over time, more beds were dug, and our repertoire of fruit and vegetables grew.

In 2014, I suggested that we should make chutney and jam from some of the produce, to make some extra money; we were trying to raise the cash for an essential tractor and a shredder (for the compost heap). I was told that the regulations were very complicated, however, I persisted, looked up the rules on labelling, hygiene, etc. and in spring 2015 our first jars of rhubarb and ginger jam arrived.

At that time, we had a young garden apprentice called Chris. One day in August, he emerged from the vinery with a huge cucumber, which had been overlooked, and had grown to about a metre long, very fat and knobbly. Brought up on Roald Dahl books, he said “Perhaps it’s a snozzcumber! What shall we do with it?” – so snozzcumber pickle was invented, and is now a favourite with Fulham Palace regulars. In autumn, there is a range of different flavoured apple chutneys, and quince jam, made either with lemon or cinnamon. They work well as a jam, but are sublime with cheese. At other times, I have made blackberry jam, crab apple jelly, spiced pickled pears for Christmas, spicy tomato, green tomato, chilli jam, beetroot and orange chutney and, in years ending with an odd number, cherry plum pickle (the tree only produces fruit every two years).

Some recipes I inherited from my mother; the most popular apple chutney I make, is called “My Mother’s Apple Chutney”. Snozzcumber was invented, using a rather dull recipe as its base. For some produce, I use the BBC Good Food website – extremely reliable. At times, I play around with recipes, adding and adapting. The good thing about chutney and pickles, is that they are very forgiving, and always come out tasting good.

The quantities are small, and it is entirely dependent on what is available in the walled garden. The main ingredient for each jar comes from the Palace; the preserve is then homemade in Fulham, and brought back, with striking labels showing the Tudor gate.

No air miles, organically grown produce, and the money raised is all invested back into the gardens. On sale in our beautiful new gift shop, you can take away a true memento of Fulham Palace.