July 2019 at Wark Farm
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We're reaching peak summer growth here at the farm, it's looking very beautiful and productive; I hope you will enjoy the photo of one of our meadows below with a wild geranium centre stage along with Sabrina's exploration of the many benefits of having such diverse habitats here at the farm. If you would like to come and see the beauty we are open on Sunday 21st (10 until 3) for order collection and fridge browsing. We don't have a walk organised as such but wandering amongst the flowers is welcome. Orders will be delivered on Friday 19th and we will be at Banchory Farmers market on the 20th. We have the full range of Belted Galloway beef and Hebridean Hogget available this month, along with the first of this years slow grown, home grown chicken and bacon.
Richness in the details
I love how the farm is something simultaneously cultivated, thought through until its tiniest details but at the same time houses a rich wildness which will not let itself be tamed.
The first time I came here, all I saw was green, green, green. Maybe in various hues, but there was nothing spectacular to it in my eye. Now Laurel walks me through the meadows and points out pink Ragged Robin flowers or a trefoil, also known as bacon & eggs flowers, and Lady Bedstraw, changing the fields from even green in my eyes to distinctive and brimming with life. With life, but also with possibilities as these flowers not only enrich the diet of our cattle and sheep, and attract local wildlife, but they also house purposes once well known by some locals but now forgotten by most people. Roots of the Ragged Robin, with its pretty ragged edges pink petals mythed to be used by fairies for their dresses, annoying goblins whose flowers it were, contain saponins and have been used in the past as a soap substitute for washing clothes. The flowers were also used, boiled in water and the liquid used to rinse the hair after shampooing to make it soft and fragrant. Birdsfoot Trefoil is one of the best wild nectar sources for bees, but also deer are attracted by it. For gardeners it can be an interesting cover crop plant for difficult locations with wet or moderately acidic soil. For farmers, it’s used into the crop cut for hay or as forage crop. While it’s not considered an edible plant as all parts are poisonous, its seeds have been used medicinally as an antispasmodic, sedative, to remove gas and reduce fever. Lady Bedstraw, sticking out tall with clusters of bright yellow flowers attached to its stem, carpets the grasses and fills the air with a sweet honey like scent. The plant can be used to curdle milk for cheese instead of rennet, giving the milk a sweeter taste and colouring the cheese.
As a child, I used to be mesmerised by tales of witch doctors, using plants, flowers, herbs and roots to cure all sorts of ailments. Now, as an adult, I find myself mesmerised by the culinary possibilities brought by these plants. When a couple of years ago Belgium, my home country, went on a culinary hype of ‘forgotten vegetables’ I found myself excited to try these out in many various dining and eating locations. To my dissappointment, it never seemed to stretch further than using veggies such as parsnips and salsify. But here at the farm, amid all the cultivation, there is an abundance of space for wild life, including wild plants, I discovered the world of foraging.
I find myself experimenting with leaves and flowers, and I dream about one day using this knowledge for our pies. I look at nettles and see a spinach like plant but with a slightly fishy edge at its outer taste, promising great combinations with salty quail eggs. I look at cardoon and think about making a cheese with it, which then in turn could be used in our pies as well. I look at elderflower and wonder about combinations with carrots.
In the mean time though, we’re experimenting with more ‘mundane’ ingredients, determined to make a vegetarian pie which will stand out just as much as our meat pies. It’s not an easy ride though. Where our meat pies already had the head start of our high quality home sourced meat, we pretty much need to start from zero for the veggie pies. It’s also not enough to just make a good tasting pie; it needs to fit under our Wark Farm credo, ‘Taste Scotland’s Wild Richness’. That doesn’t need to mean only local foods. Like our Lamb & Prune pies, they can be a marriage of Laurel’s scottish roots and my adventurous, creative spirit. So Laurel and I are playing in the kitchen, hoping that in a few months time, we’ll have finally perfected that one recipe, bringing you something new and good enough to add to our standard range. From that moment on, we’ll have five pies in our standard range, beef & onion, beef & cheese, pork, lamb & prune and a veggie pie with seasonal specials such as the pheasant that was popular in the winter as game comes in and out of season.
If you have any suggestions for a new pie, don’t hesitate to let us know. Just like we enjoy being inspired by all what is growing around us, we also like being inspired by our customers and the stories they bring to us. So please do get in contact.