A leading chef-patron is encouraging Scots to grow their own salad at home.
Fred Berkmiller, from l’escargot bleu, l’escargot blanc and Bar a Vin, met up with our Scottish Field photographer Angus Blackburn in the hope of inspiring Scots to set aside a patch in their gardens for growing their own salad leaves.
‘You just can’t beat it,’ says Fred, picking some of his homegrown produce. ‘All these salads grow so easily. Anybody can grow it. If you have compost and a square metre, you’ll have enough herbs for the whole year. Why on earth would you go to the supermarket?’
Last year, during National Allotment Week, Fred was the first to admit that he’s no gardening expert, but hacing rejuvenated the Newton Walled garden on the outskirts of Edinburgh, he’s managed to grow an abundance of produce:
‘A year and half on, I am now growing potatoes, carrots, beans, salad and tomatoes over two acres of land. I continue learning as I go, making mistakes and finding what works best in the temperamental Scottish climate. I had never realised the true satisfaction that could be gained from salad until I picked my first leaf!
‘We are all to accustomed to the convenience of the supermarkets now a days. We expect seasonal ingredients like strawberries to be available all year round when in fact we should have them in summer, when they grow naturally.
‘If you have space in your garden or a nearby area, I would encourage you wholeheartedly to try growing some of your own vegetables. Once you start the journey from seed to soil through to your own dinner plate, you start to realise how special food is.
‘It’s not just a plastic wrapped object that you pick up in a supermarket, but each item is individual and has its own character. I thought I knew good tomatoes until I grew my own!
‘Growing your own fruit and vegetables isn’t as scary as it sounds. Start simply with some lettuce or radishes that are sturdy and hardy to the Scottish weather. Once you make a salad from our own leaves, you’ll never look back!
‘The flavour is incomparable to pre-packaged salad. You don’t even need a garden to grow vegetables, you can plant herbs in a window box or plant pot to get started whilst you grow your confidence (alongside your greens!)
‘Once you taste something you’ve grown yourself, you will see what all the fuss it about and why I’m so passionate about locally sourced produce!’
Fred started his hôtellerie apprenticeship in his hometown of Tours in the Loire Valley. He settled in Scotland in 1995, and went on to open his first restaurant in the Grassmarket in 1998, before opening a second restaurant in 2004 in Edinburgh’s west end – what is now l’escargot blanc.
In 2008 he began renovating an old clockmaker’s shop on Broughton Street with his wife Betty that opened as l’escargot bleu in January 2009. In 2015, Fred and his team renovated the area beneath l’escargot blanc to create l’escargot bar à vin, a place to indulge in charcuterie, cheese and wine, carefully sourced from artisans in Scotland and France.
Provenance, sourcing and sustainability have always defined Fred’s cooking since he started his journey as a chef.
To find out more about Fred’s l’escargot bleu, visit his website.