Very hungry caterpillars

Vicky Moffitt, of Vallum Farm on Hadrian’s Wall, shares the trials and tribulations of the Kitchen Garden which supplies produce to the farm’s weddings and events, and Restaurant Pine. Vallum, Military Road, Newcastle, NE18 0LL, tel 01434 672 652,

Chard, chard, chard. Butterflies, butterflies, moths. Grrrr… 

We like (or we used to like…) using rainbow chard on our feasting platters at weddings, using the huge leaves to present North Acomb Farm’s beautiful Aberdeen Angus beef. But last time we went to harvest some, the once-magnificent leaves were reduced to a patchwork of holes thanks to the caterpillars. The perils of relying on home-grown produce!

Restaurant Pine has had more luck with the bees thankfully, and there are good stores to see them through a second winter. I wonder if we will finally see the incredible flo hive in action next year? Meanwhile, each day we see the Pine chefs walk up and down to the garden several times a day, where the produce inspires their incredible Michelin-starred menus, so at least the hungry caterpillars haven’t had everything.

The cobnuts, meanwhile, have been abundant, and I’m touching wood when I say I like to crack them with my teeth. There’s a wonderful gorge in Bellingham with ancient ferns, mosses, and lots of cobnuts, which I still call hazelnuts because that’s what they were to us as children, when we pillaged them by reaching high from our ponies’ saddles.

Unfortunately, the rats have made their way in from the fields as the stubble gives way to planting and so rat-proofing has been a big job lately. It also feels like summer has passed so quickly and with it the garden at home has become a bombsite all of a sudden. Colin Smith is doing an incredible job reclaiming it, thank goodness, as he’s a landscaping wizard.

The highlight on my horizon is a table booked at Michelin-starred Hjem down the road in Wall in early October. It’s always fascinating to taste the different ways they preserve the summer bounty and I can’t wait to go.

Meanwhile, we have a flurry of autumn weddings and then I’m looking to book a November escape. I’m craving a holiday and would love to go to Sicily. We will see.

Have a great autumn tidying and getting your compost into gear for another season. I hate to tell you, but I found a Roland rat in ours…

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