Fresh, locally sourced ingredients often go unnoticed in daily meals. Here at De Montfort University, we take great pride in our Trinity House herb garden, where vegetables and herbs are grown throughout the year and cooked up on campus for students and staff; our salad bar is full of vegetables picked as early as that morning, the tomato sauce spread on pizza is handmade from freshly picked tomatoes, and slow cooked meat is garnished with herbs grown just a stones-throw away.
Daniel Kirk, Trinity House gardens’ incredible caretaker and gardener, discussed the possibility of growing herbs and vegetables for the kitchens with former head Chef James Hart and executive Chef Aaron Latham in 2015, who were thrilled with the possibility of having access to locally grown ingredients. Daniel sourced the seeds from an organic heritage to compliment the heritage of the area, and began to give the garden the love and care it needed to reach its full potential.
Now, between May to September, Daniel harvests vegetables approximately 3 times a week!
The area is truly impressive; Dan ensures that everything is kept in great condition all year round. With this, the area has been praised by many for allowing full access to students who are looking for a place to unwind and relax. It is also used for Mindfulness sessions, a programme to help improve student’s wellbeing.
Now-head Chef Aaron Latham took the time to discuss the impact the herb garden has had on the campus cafeteria.
He explains that he uses the herbs and vegetables in every day meals on campus, and even creates his own sauces such as salad dressing, pesto, and purees. Near the end of the academic year, many herbs and vegetables are in season which makes “perfect timing” for big events such as graduation and award evenings. Many vegetables are also put to use late September for freshers week, such as the butternut squash which produced over 800 bowls of soup for newcomers this academic year.
Graduation Vegan Korean Pancake (approx. 60% made with Trinity House herb garden ingredients)
But how does the herb garden help reduce the universities carbon footprint? Aaron emphasised how incredibly easy it is to go and pick the ingredients he needs fresh from the soil, calling it a luxury for him and his team. “Knowing that the ingredients haven’t be sprayed with pesticides, tightly packaged in bulk, shipped from who knows where, covered in excessive plastic, and most likely damaged along the way makes the kitchens extremely pleased to collect their vegetables and herbs by foot”. The herb garden prevents unnecessary use of plastic and fuel to transport goods; Aaron has counted that it takes just 139 steps to get his supplies from the garden!
Aaron also expressed how it is not only cost-effective, but it reduces waste significantly. Aaron can walk and pick exactly the right amount of herbs or vegetables that he needs instead of buying in bulk, which saves money and the liklhood of vegetables going off and being thrown away. Big events within the university need specific requirements, and both Aaron and Daniel work together throughout the year to produce the right amount of herbs and vegetables at the right time. Aaron can also be as specific as to pick the exact size herb leaf he requires, for example, and expressed his love for having full control over what he uses and when.
The Trinity House herb garden is DMUs not-so-secret key to producing fresher, more organic dishes whilst considering the impact it has on the environment. It is truly a remarkable asset to the university.
Trinity House Herb Garden plants:
Swiss Chard (rainbow mix red yellow and green), Pink Passion Chard (bright pink, heritage), Chiogga Beetroot (red and white circles), Yellow and Red Beetroot, Outdoor Girl Tomato , Scarlet Knight Tomato (heritage seed), Aida Gold Dwarf Yellow Bean (Heritage Seed), Cherokee Climbing French Bean (heritage seed), Radish (unusual colours), Cucamelon (vine with grape like cucumber), Summer Crookneck Bent Summer Squash , Red and Yellow Shallots, Broad Beans, Aquadulce Mixed leaves, Mizuna, Mibuna, Sorrel, Mixed Spicy Leaves, Edible Flowers, Bread Seed Poppies, Chilli Variety Serrano, Habanero, Anaheim and Inferno, Aubergine Black Beauty, Tagetes Minuta, Apple Marigold , Pink Fir Apple (heritage potato), Basil, Parsley, Chives, Rosemary, Garden Mint, Apple Mint, Sage, Tarragon, Dill, Fennel, Chamomile, and Sweet Cicely.