Summer in the Edible Garden image

Summer in the Edible Garden

As we find ourselves in the heart of summer, with February reaching its midpoint, the days stretch long and hot, while breezy evenings provided by the Cape Doctor help cool down the crops and fend off any looming threats of disease. The gardens bustle with activity as we gather fresh produce daily for the bustling restaurants. Following a bountiful spring, we now gather kilos of beautiful tomatoes, basil, salad leaves, coriander, chillies, and aubergines—all ingredients cherished by our chefs. Boxes of edible flowers are meticulously picked each morning. In the orchards, the plum and almond harvests are complete. Our attention now turns to the apples and pomegranates as they begin to change colour and ripen.


In the midst of this summer abundance, we sit down with Christine Stevens, an expert in edible gardens and the Leeu Locally Grown Team Manager at Leeu Collection in Franschhoek, for some farm-to-fork insights.

Leeu Collection: Can you tell us a bit about your background and how you became involved in horticulture? 

Christine Stevens: I grew up on a small holding in rural England, so I was brought up in an environment that was conducive to gardening and growing one’s own food.  

Leeu Collection: What inspired you to start the Leeu Locally Grown initiative at Leeu Estates?

Christine Stevens: I was approached by the Leeu Collection as they sought to establish a farm-to-table initiative for their hotels and restaurants. Through the project, I assist them in ensuring that their restaurants have the best fresh, organic, and seasonal ingredients at their disposal. Fresh is best.


Leeu Collection: What will you be harvesting this summer?

Christine Stevens: We work very closely with the chefs to ensure that we fit into their menu plans.We always grow a variety of fresh herbs, salad leaves, courgettes, and heirloom tomatoes. Chefs love using courgette flowers, as they are almost impossible to buy in the shops.


Leeu Collection: Could you share some of your favourite dishes using fresh, summer produce? 

Christine Stevens: So many to choose from! A favourite from last summer was a plum, tomato, herb, and burrito salad, which was served in the hotel at Leeu Estates, and made from ingredients grown by us on the farm. We have delicious plums growing in the orchards, which the chefs love. 


Leeu Collection: Do you perhaps have a summer recipe of your own to share with readers?

Christine Stevens: I love making fresh pesto and salsa verde to season and elevate any dish. I often make herb pesto from nasturtium, coriander, and almonds. If I work late, I also use it as a quick pasta sauce with some added pecorino.


Leeu Collection: Why is it important to grow (and eat) local, seasonal, and organic produce?

Christine Stevens: I think it is becoming obvious that for a healthy functioning body, we need to eat seasonal, fresh, and unprocessed ingredients. Freshly grown vegetables also contain more nutrients. As Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”. 


Leeu Collection: Can you share any interesting or unexpected challenges you've faced while building and maintaining your organic gardens?

Christine Stevens: Patience is always required. You cannot fool Mother Nature - she always wins. Work with nature, not against it.


Leeu Collection: What advice would you give to someone interested in starting their own organic garden, whether at home or on a larger scale?

Christine Stevens: Everything starts with healthy soil, so invest in good compost – it’s worth it. At Leeu Estates, we grow on large, raised beds, which help to keep weeds under control and assist with good drainage in winter. Healthy soil means healthy vegetables. Always write a list of what you like to eat, and plant according to that list to ensure that you use what you grow. 




  • 250g mixed nasturtium and coriander leaves 30 g almonds
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • 300ml olive oil 


1.    Grind the almonds, garlic, and herbs in a Nutribullet or blender.
2.    Add the lemon zest and olive oil.

It keeps in a jar for a week, so it’s something I always have in my kitchen.


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