At The Merchant Hotel, we take pride in our close links with local producers and suppliers, as well as those further afield. However The Merchant’s most recent venture has taken a step further, delving into the production and development stages of a local, organic garden to produce fresh, local fruit and vegetables, and to revive the forgotten heritage of Helen’s Bay’s once-thriving vegetable garden.
Since November 2015, chefs at The Merchant Hotel have been assisting David Love Cameron, The Walled Garden at Helen’s Bay’s organic vegetable gardener, to restore these gardens to their former glory. Nestled in the village of Helen’s Bay, this two acre garden was once a flourishing vegetable garden, designed by Thomas Workman of Workman Clark shipbuilders in the late 1800s to provide vegetable and fruit produce for Craigdarragh House. David Love Cameron has recently undertaken the project, intending to restore this certified-organic plot to its former glory, which will see the gardens prosper once more with heritage fruit and vegetables.
Each week, our chefs assist with the work involved in developing an organic garden, from weeding plant beds to planting trees under David’s watchful eye. Whilst many of the plants, such as the fruit trees, will take at least one year to yield fruit, already our kitchens in The Great Room Restaurant, The Cloth Ear and Berts Jazz Bar have returned from the gardens with fresh produce, including Brune d’Hiver lettuce, Red Russian kale and colonial kale.
Whilst we always endeavour to seek local produce where possible, with growing concerns for the environment comes increased appreciation for produce that can be traced from nature to plate. With this in mind, we believe that, not only will our work with The Walled Garden help to further our knowledge of organic vegetable gardening and sustainability; but it will also help to drive our creativity in the kitchen as we receive new varieties of forgotten heritage fruit and vegetables with every coming season.