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As regular visitors to this site will know, Fifteen has just reopened its doors after a complete refurbishment and has a new head chef, Jon Rotherham, at the helm. Excitingly, the menu will change on a daily basis. Equally excitingly, from my point of view at least, I shall be sending produce from Jamie’s garden down there at the end of each week. Look out for it on a weekend.

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A very modest quantity was delivered today. The only new-season crop was rhubarb, which has finally hit its stride now we have some warm weather. Everything else had been overwintered in the polytunnel: rocket, spicy mustard leaves, winter purslane, parsley, thyme and oregano. Now they’re gone, I can plant the space up with tomatoes next week. All the vegetables are certified organic by the Soil Association, which inspects the garden annually. The eggs are from Jamie’s very free-range hens. Many of them are ex-battery birds, so they really lucked-out.

The vegetable beds are large enough for one person to manage but nowhere near farm-scale, so I shall not be keeping Fifteen in food, but the idea is to have something to send year-round. Next up will be asparagus, then broad beans, broad bean tops and a lot of wet garlic.

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Returning to the foraging theme of recent weeks, I have been eating hop shoots. Hops are very vigorous climbers and spring into action just that bit ahead of the hedgerows coming into leaf, which makes scrambling up easier. Raw, the shoots are a little too bristly, which is perhaps why the rabbits in my garden seem to leave them alone. These hairs help the plant cling to its supports but they become palatable once lightly steamed. Books say the flavour is like asparagus. I thought pea-shoots nearer to the mark but there’s also a slight bitterness to the finish, which you might expect from a plant whose flowers are used to flavour beer. In any case, they were tasty dressed with butter and lemon. I shall try putting some in a frittata this weekend, along with the first asparagus spears from my allotment.

Pete Wrapson

About the author

I have looked after Jamie’s garden in Essex for the last six years, growing organic fruit and vegetables for both the Oliver family and Fifteen Restaurant. Although I was press-ganged into service in my parents’ vegetable garden at a tender age I only returned to the soil in 2000, having moved to a house with an overgrown veg patch. Then came two allotments and, fortunately, a burgeoning interest in cooking, given the sudden mountains of produce. At this point, I was still working as an editor, which seems odd now, since I try to spend every daylight hour outdoors. Feeling increasingly guilty about constantly staring out of the office window thinking about plants, I quit in 2004 in order to make the hobby the day job. A traineeship at Cambridge University Botanic Garden was followed by a stint in the organic kitchen garden at Audley End House before I was lucky enough to land the post at Jamie’s. It’s hard to think of a nicer job, really: I work in a beautiful place for a boss who is very much into his garden, have a lot of freedom to experiment and from time to time get to see Jamie and the Food Team at work, which in turns inspires my own cooking. I blog about the garden as often as I can and also write the gardening pages for Jamie Magazine, which are perfect complements to pulling up weeds and digging holes.

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