Pick & mix: The joy of great meals sprung from the garden

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

From viola flowers in the salad to gnocchi made from potatoes sown by the light of the moon...

My mum used to have a collection of Cordon Bleu magazines that you collected week by week until you had a prize guide to the highs and lows of 1970s cooking. Crêpe Suzette! Beef stroganoff! You know the drill. (She still has them, actually: the pages are a carnival of curly Good Life fonts, chickens-in-baskets and intricate rice dishes. What was it about Watergate and Vietnam that brought out everybody's inner pilaf?)

Anyway, Lucy Boyd's mum was a different kettle of fish. Slightly tastier fish, to be honest. Salted Italian anchovies, for example. Maybe a lobster. Possibly even oysters. Because Lucy Boyd's mum was Rose Gray, who went on to start the River Café, and who presumably didn't have a Cordon Bleu magazine in the house. "No, she sort of felt her way with cooking. She just looked at everything so carefully. When she left art school, she became a teacher and she was an observer; she would go to the market, or into the kitchen and talk to the chef, and point and manage in a mixture of half-Italian, half-English."

As a result of this culinarily atuned upbringing, Boyd is today the kind of holiday guest who can make mayonnaise on the beach with nary a blender in sight. The sort of person who takes Sam Clark from Moro off to hunt wild thyme for ravioli. The kind of working mother who's the head gardener at Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, Surrey, but is also out at dawn with the chefs from the nurseries' much-fêted café, nicking rose petals from owner Francesco Boglione's flowerbeds to put into the salad.

All of which she makes clear in her first cookbook, Kitchen Memories (£20, HarperCollins), a reminder to all us culinary enthusiasts that the garden is where almost all great meals begin.

Spring has come late, in Petersham as everywhere else, this year. The day I visit, the walled kitchen garden has only the mildest signs of coming life. Veg beds are still warming under horticultural fleece, and rows of tulips are only just beginning to pick up their heads. Yet Boyd is still full of spring-themed growing ideas. Today, it's little viola flowers in the salad: "Sea kale, some blood oranges, lamb's lettuce and home-made mayonnaise; decorated with these lovely, tiny purple and violet flowers."

And she's already excited about the first tomatoes, grown at Petersham under substantial ranges of glass. "Those first tomatoes are such a delicious thing to walk past and shove in your mouth," she says. "They have a taste that's so different from summer varieties; they're still tangy and acidic, because of the lack of sun. Serve them with prosciutto, and the sweetness comes from the fat on the meat rather than the tomato." She makes a salad with coppa di Parma (dry-cured ham), ricotta and tomatoes dripped with marjoram and oil, which leaves me dribbling. As a result of all this, her book is one of those that makes you veer between wanting to be sick (with envy at her apparently blissful life), and wanting to beg (for details of those tomatoes).

At Petersham, Boyd works with the chefs to produce the best fresh stuff for the kitchen, but also participates in their ridiculously-reasonable-while-remaining-completely-glamorous gardening courses. I went to one recently and ended up learning how to make gnocchi from potatoes actually sown by the light of the moon. And, more importantly, I was sitting next to Matthew Macfadyen and Keeley Hawes. Keeley showed me iPhone pictures of her chickens as I was eating lunar gnocchi, and life doesn't get much better than that. Unless, of course, you can get me the name of those tomatoes.

For details of Petersham's spring courses: petershamnurseries.com

Three recommendations for spring sowing


"Supermarkets mostly sell the narrow-leaved, strong-tasting wild rocket," says Boyd, "which won't grow well in English spring weather. Try broad-leaved rocket – it is mild in flavour, germinates in three to four days and can be picked after a few weeks." Rocket Pegasus, £1.99 for 150 seeds, unwins.co.uk


"I love unusual beetroots: in shops it's really difficult to get hold of Chioggia, for example, with its striking pink stripes." £2.99 for 300 seeds, thompson-morgan.com


Incidentally, those toms are "Marinda" and "Camone". £2.95 for eight Marinda seeds, plantsofdistinction.co.uk

Discover more property articles at Homes and Property
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn