Tales from the Kitchen Garden


Rabbits. The very word makes this live-and-let-live gardener twitch with rage. It’s not that I hate them, but I hate what they do to the garden. A nibble here, a dig there and overnight your lovingly tended crops are fit only for compost.

So when Ivan and I started work in the Kitchen Garden at Vallum, Ivan doing the vegetables and salads for the restaurant here, and me growing cut flowers and herbs, the rabbits scented our plan and moved in under the cover of darkness. While Ivan thwacked posts and netting into the ground, I brought in a secret weapon, Luna my lurcher, but the warm weather proved too tempting and she sprawled about decorously as the rabbits tiptoed past her to the carrots. Plan B was ferrets, but the ferret man laughed and told me that his jills were in season so the hobs had only one thing on their minds, and it wasn’t hunting.

We’ve got the Normans to thank for rabbits. They introduced them into Britain and farmed them for their meat and fur, and we ate them until the Second World War when they fell out of fashion for being a poor man’s food. Rabbit meat is enjoying a revival, and I can testify to how tasty it is, somehow more delicious when you know it was the thief who’s been nicking your salad. Thanks to Ivan, we’re now rabbit-free, so I can calm my murderous thoughts and we can get on sowing food for the table and growing beautiful flowers. However, I’m reminded of a friend who triumphantly announced she’d eradicated rabbits from her garden, only to have a buzzard drop a live one straight onto the table as we were having lunch. Perhaps I’ll have to train a goshawk as well.

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