Winter Harvests on Leeu Estates
Are you an aspiring organic gardener or farm-to-fork foodie? Prepare to be informed and inspired as we catch up with Leeu Locally Grown pioneer Christine Stevens on how she takes care of the thriving organic produce gardens on Leeu Estates, and what she’s harvesting for us this winter.
What is the Leeu Locally Grown initiative, and why is it important?
Leeu Locally Grown is all about growing the freshest, best-quality produce for hotel guests and diners at Leeu Estates. This produce is harvested and supplied to our restaurants – The Dining Room and La Petite Colombe on Leeu Estates; Protégé and Epice at Le Quartier Français, and Oku Eatery just opposite Le Quartier Français.
We harvest daily, so the chefs have the freshest, most wholesome seasonal produce at their disposal. Chef interaction with the harvests is a really important part of farm-to-fork dining. Recently, for example, the chefs at La Petite Colombe assisted with our artichoke harvest in order to better understand our ingredients.
What vegetables/herbs are you harvesting this winter? And when did you have to plant them?
At present, the garden is full of winter produce: root vegetables, leeks, cabbages and broccoli, as well as a selection of seasonal herbs. We plant daily to ensure that the chefs have access to a continuous supply. Anticipating seasonal harvests is a big part of organic gardening, and to ensure a continuous supply, the winter produce is planned during the summer months, and planting begins in March. Right now, we are busy planting spring ingredients.
Are there any interesting techniques and tricks you use to keep your produce fresh and thriving, the natural/organic way?
Everything is grown naturally, without any chemicals, pesticides or weedkillers. Regenerative farming is a big part of this: good, healthy soil produces good, healthy produce!
We use our own homemade compost - all vegetable waste is collected from the restaurants daily and added to the compost heap with grass cuttings and garden clippings. All weeding is done by hand, but we rely on a good mulch of our nutrient-rich compost to keep most of the weeds at bay. We try to disturb the soil as little as possible.
We use companion planting, in which two plants are grown close together for mutual benefits. For example, we would grow zucchini with radishes to naturally support one another.
Occasionally, we get aphids on certain crops, but you can find (or create) a homemade spray consisting of crushed homegrown chillies macerated in water for 12 hours, and spray this natural pesticide onto the aphids.
We also rely on Mother Nature's natural parasites for regenerative soil health. I spotted some ladybirds in the vegetable garden, and their luxury food is aphids. This is how organic gardening takes advantage of the circle of life.
What do you suggest planting in South Africa in July?
We are currently planning and planting spring crops. Under cover, the first tomato, cucumber and courgette seeds have been planted into trays which will be transplanted at a later date. We are also planting peas, leeks, coriander and carrots directly into the beds during July. We take careful care to weed and check on our strawberry crops – since it’s not only humans that delight in this sweet fruit!
Want to experience the exquisite Leeu Estates gardens and farm-to-fork dining for yourself? Contact us to find out more and reserve your unrivalled escape today.
With this recipe, Parsnip Soup with Black Garlic Purée, Hazelnut & Biltong Crumble & Estate Herb Oil, we invite you to step into the kitchen and enjoy a piece of The Dining Room in the comfort of your own home.