In her ongoing monthly reports, Centotre and the Scottish Café owner Carina Contini updates us on her efforts to create a kitchen garden.
My daughter asked, “Why does it rain in Scotland in summer?” When you’re six and can’t even remember eating too many sweets the day before, you’ve no chance of remembering the sizzling 1970s.
The rain is really slowing everything down. The soil is so heavy it’s making it impossible for the team to crack on with digging and planting. Our next area is full of dead grasses, weeds and slugs. It’s also extremely slippy and behaving like the beginners’ ski slope at Hillend.
With the mildest spring and the wettest summer, the slugs have come out in their hundreds; on average we’re catching about 300 to 400 per day. The children had been helping out, but at 1p per catch we needed to find a more cost-effective alternative.
Old mother hen to the rescue. We’re going to cage and chicken-wire the bed that needs preparing and unleash the chickens. Our dear friend Patricia at Phantassie Farm is going to give us some of her old hens. New pullets or young hens are brilliant for eggs but aren’t half as good as their old mothers when it comes to foraging. Chickens love rooting around for grubs and slugs, and form a vital part of pest-control in organic gardens, so the team can have a break from the really hard, yucky work.
Patricia feeds her hens so well that they continue laying for a year longer than most commercial hens. They’ll be in heaven rummaging and munching all those slugs – a chicken’s dream summer holiday at Casa San Lorenzo.
Speaking of holidays, we’re heading over to an organic borga, the Puglian word for farm, way down in the arch of the foot of Italy. This farm has more than 400 acres of fruit trees, olive groves and vegetables. We’re going to forage for some new and exciting ingredients for Centotre and hopefully get some tips while we’re there.
So my daughter will see some sun this year. When she’s 40 we’ll remind her of 2012. Chances are she’ll be like the hens and think her best holiday ever was in Scotland.
• Casa San Lorenzo (www.centotre.com/casa-san-lorenzo-garden/) Twitter@CasaSanLorenzo
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Weather for Edinburgh
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 6 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 3 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 23 mph
Wind direction: North west