Ollie Hutson, senior gardener at The Pig Group, gives us a guided tour amongst the brassicas of their kitchen garden near Bath
How did you end up at The Pig?
I’ve always had a keen interest in vegetable gardening (I used to help my grandad on his allotment as a boy). My enthusiasm was quickly spotted and I was asked to join the Pig Hotel team. Since then I have helped to build and manage all the kitchen gardens in the group and now help to oversee all the other head kitchen gardeners.
Do all The Pig hotels have their own kitchen gardens?
There are currently four Pig Hotels in the group: Brockenhurst in the New Forest, The Pig near Bath, The Pig on the Beach at Studland Bay in Dorset and The Pig at Combe near Honiton opening next summer (2016). They all feature extensive kitchen gardens. There’s also a B&B-cum-deli in Southampton city centre called The Pig in the Wall but, due to its location, it doesn’t have a kitchen garden!
Has a kitchen garden always been a central component to the Pig Hotels?
Yes, from day one we really wanted to set ourselves a challenge and make sure that every dish served in any Pig Hotel was touched by the kitchen garden – and what we could not produce ourselves would be sourced in the local area.
What percentage of the food comes from the kitchen garden at the Bath location?
This is one of the most common questions I get asked – and also one of the most difficult to answer! To be totally honest, it really depends on which crop and at what point we are in the year. Everything grown in the garden gets used in the kitchen somehow and anything we can’t use we preserve by drying, smoking, pickling… to ensure we always have something different for every plate. We're pretty self-sufficient with chillies for example – if we preserve them cleverly – but at the other end of the spectrum, we could fill the whole garden with flat leaf parsley and we still wouldn’t produce enough.
How do you select what grows in the garden?
Every year at the end of the season we meet with the chefs and discuss all the crops that have been grown. Then the gardeners get together and produce a detailed sowing and harvesting plan for every Pig Hotel kitchen garden for the whole year.
I always imagine winter somehow more difficult than tending a summer kitchen garden – is that the case?
Not at all, at The Pig we harvest 365 days a year; we even have a gardener onsite on Christmas day for harvesting. We also tend to do a lot of planning and undertake larger projects such as garden extensions during this period.
Photographs Emli Bendixen