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A Foodie’s Guide to Gardening: What to Plant this Spring

It’ll come as no surprise that we at Chocolates of Glenshiel are thoroughly invested in our food! We love playing with and trying out new ingredients, as well as experimenting with new ways of using old favourites. We also love to follow the process of where our ingredients come from – as evidenced by the highly traceable local ingredients we use in our chocolates. As such, we love to grow some of our food ourselves. For example, some of the rosemary used in our latest release, the Spring Collection, was grown in Finlay’s own garden!

Last year’s supermarket calamities caused a lot of us to reconsider our reliability on supply chains and availability, causing a huge surge in home-grown fruit and veg – a welcome change if you ask us! Not only is it more sustainable, home-grown produce tastes way better than shop-bought and is often healthier to boot!

That said, with the best will in the world, with our bitter winters and often dreich summers, it can be hard to rely on crops less hardy than cabbages or tatties. But Scottish amateur horticulturalists (or foodies looking for a wee project) need not panic! The team at Chocolates of Glenshiel are here to tell you which of our favourite flavours you can grow at home.

1. Elderflower

Dubbed the ‘essence of British summer-time’, we’ve all been growing more and more fond of elderflower over the last few years. Its fresh, floral, fruity flavour lends itself to so many delicious treats from summery baked goods like cakes and tarts, to gin cocktails – and it offers several health benefits - including immune system boosting, something we’re all keen for at the moment. Now that’s what we call flower power! What’s more, if you find yourself with a bit of a surplus, it’s so easy to whip yourself up a bottle of elderflower cordial or syrup, or a jar of elderflower jam. You could even try some elderflower wine if you’re feeling brave! An added benefit of homegrown elder though, is of course that it looks so beautiful – take what you need and leave the rest in place to enjoy looking at for the rest of the season.

We get our elderflower from a lovely lady called Barbara who forages for it just over the hill from Glenshiel in Glenelg, but you can plant your own elder tree to enjoy it for years to come.

Elder is a hardy plant which can grow in most spots of the garden. Try to keep the soil moist but well drained – not too much of a problem for we Scots – and harvest between May and June. You’ll get some elderberries later in the year too, if the birds don’t get there first.

2. Ginger

Ginger can be notoriously difficult to grow in the garden, especially when temperatures dip. So skip the hard part and grow it indoors! Simply find yourself a nice thumb-sized piece of shop-bought ginger, preferably one with a good few wee bumpy eyes or nodules, and plant it in a fair-sized pot full of well-draining potting mix. Stick your pot in a sunny window where it’ll stay nice and warm and harvest your ginger after about six or eight months. In the meantime, it makes a braw houseplant!

We love our ginger paired with Jura whisky and dark chocolate, but it’s as versatile as it is delicious! Fresh ginger works excellently - as we all know - in most Asian style recipes, but it’s great for adding a fiery kick to other meat dishes and even salads. You could throw it in a soup, bake it into a biscuit or cake, make it into a marinade for some pork ribs or even make your own ginger or chai tea! The possibilities are endless!

3. Lavender

Hang on, hear us out! If you’re looking for something a bit new to experiment with, some lavender might be just the thing for you! Easy to grow at home, most varieties are easily dried and have the power to transformed dishes into a culinary delicacy! Depending on where you want to grow it, there are many kinds of lavender to choose from, some rugged and outdoorsy (and great for attracting insects like bees and butterflies), and some more delicate which would rather stay inside. Regardless, there are so many ways to use dried, culinary lavender to elevate everyday dishes - from a wee sprinkle over roast tatties to lavender lemonade to chocolate and lavender fudge! Its perfect harmony with citrus fruits or honey makes it the ideal ingredient for warmer weather – invest now for an elegant summer feast!

4. Raspberries

Quintessentially Scottish, the raspberry is a firm favourite of ours. This tough wee plant can withstand the Scottish climate, producing the most intense tart yet sweet flavour. Garnishing a lovely, chilled glass of prosecco, or just a delicious, healthy snack – the raspberry can do it all. We love ours simply combined with some white chocolate, but you can feel free to experiment! The best method for growing raspberries depends on the variety you choose to go with, so do a bit of research before you get stuck in. The payoff come summer (or autumn, if you’re growing later fruiting ones) is well worth the effort – they just taste that bit sweeter when you’ve done all the hard work yourself!

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