The rain came this week – bringing a welcome respite from watering and more time for nurturing the garden in other ways. Mulching our ancient chestnut tree; dead-heading roses; mixing good soil for spreading.

Some of our chefs returned this week as would-be gardeners, helping in the kitchen gardens – sowing by hand and planting out some 400 squash, courgette and pea plants. Gaining a hands-on understanding of the lifecycle of every edible; a deeper appreciation, which will influence their cooking when they return to the kitchen.

Our spring harvest benefited from an early sunny spell; broad beans ripening sooner and fatter than expected. As we head into summer, we hope to stretch our berry bounty for as long as possible – especially the strawberries, from the early fruiting ‘Emily’ to late fruiting ‘Rhapsody’.

Is there anything that captures English summer more sweetly than biting into a perfectly ripe strawberry?

Of course, the birds, slugs and hedgehogs all tend to agree. So if you’re dealing with peckish critters in your strawberry beds at home, our grower David has a few tips:

  • Cover your plants with bird netting, anchored with soil or stones
  • We use Strulch, an organic straw mulch that helps keep slugs and snails at bay
  • Leave space between the mulch and the base of the plants, to stop mice setting up home in the mulchy warmth.

David and the team are harvesting from our beds three times a week, taking glistening punnets to our Farm Shop. Meanwhile, our friend George the greengrocer is keeping Mobile Newt deliveries in generous supply of Somerset strawberries, grown just down the road from us in Cheddar.

Strawberries in Rose Syrup with Lavender Cream & Fennel Seeds 

“Strawberries match so well with floral flavours – this dish is a real seasonal treat.” Alan Stewart, Garden Café Head Chef.

Serves 4. (Prep time 60mins, set time 4hrs)

You will need:

For the lavender set cream: 

  • 350ml milk
  • 350ml cream
  • 60g sugar
  • 2g lavender
  • 2 x gelatine leaves

For the strawberries:

  • 600g strawberries
  • 1tsp fennel seeds, toasted
  • 100g sugar
  • 100ml water
  • Large handful rose petals

To garnish:

  • 1 x sprig lavender 

Make the cream the night before (or at least 4 hours before) serving:

Bring the milk, cream and sugar to the boil. Add the lavender and remove from heat. Cover and leave to infuse for at least 40mins. Sieve once cool. Measure out 560ml of the infused mix. Soak the gelatine in cold water. Bring 100ml of your infusion to the boil and whisk in the soaked gelatine. Now whisk this into the rest of your infusion. 

Pour into four serving dishes. Place in fridge to set for at least 4 hrs.

To marinade the strawberries:

Place sugar and water in a pan and bring to the boil. Add rose petals, remove from the heat, allow to cool and infuse. Hull and halve your strawberries. Crush your toasted fennel seeds. Toss these together and dress with rose syrup. 

When your creams are set, top each with a large spoonful of strawberries and juice, garnish with some delicate pieces of fresh lavender.