By Sarah Nicholl-Carne, garden volunteer
When Fulham Palace closed its doors at the end of March, the only people allowed in were the garden team, and one or two Palace staff to keep an eye on the buildings. Once a week, the beekeeping team (classified as agricultural workers to look after our livestock – bees) came to check the hives. Otherwise, all was silent for three whole months.
The gardeners and garden apprentices worked hard, but said they missed the fifty or so garden volunteers who regularly help with some of the work. Of course, the wonderful organically grown fruit and vegetables in the walled garden kept growing. In normal times, these are sold on the barrow in the walled garden, but during lockdown there was no outlet for them to be sold.
Since 2015, I have been making chutneys and jams for sale at the Palace, especially when there is a glut of cucumbers, cherry plums, apples, etc. This year was exceptional: everything needed to be made into a preserve or it would go to waste.
First up was the rhubarb. I started off making rhubarb and ginger compôte (55 jars), then tried rhubarb chutney which turned out quite well. Next, the cucumbers in the vinery came on at an alarming rate; I made 144 jars of snozzcumber pickle, which has become popular at the Palace over the past 6 years. Snozzcumber, of course, is a word invented by Roald Dahl and is described as a huge, hairy cucumber, eaten by the Big Friendly Giant. Our version uses cucumbers.
There was a little soft fruit to make strawberry, raspberry and gooseberry jam, and then the Palace opened again to the public and the garden volunteers. There were still surfeits of beetroot, resulting in spiced beetroot and orange chutney, and excess tomatoes in the vinery have become the spicy tomato chutney pictured above.
Spicy tomato chutney would go well with cheese – especially hard cheeses. I like it with a pork pie, or cold meats. It livens up all sorts of salads, curry and pies. The key is to experiment!
The gardeners recently had a big harvest of turnips; I have never warmed to turnips, and have never made anything with them. They always make me think of Baldrick and his signature dish: Turnip Surprise. I looked up turnip chutney recipes online. There were only one or two recipes, compared with hundreds of recipes for more appetising ingredients such as apples and tomatoes. It sounded quite revolting and I’m afraid, for the first time, I refused to do it. I am sure the turnips found a home but there will be no jars of exotic turnip relish at the Palace this year.
Now Simon has joined the chutney team (of two), making rhubarb and ginger jam, and apple and marrow chutney.
All of our walled garden preserves are available for purchase on the walled garden barrow on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, and we will have a stall with a huge selection at Apple Day on Sunday 4 October.